The New Face of Conservative Reform

The YG Network unveils its case for economic growth via "conservative reforms."

Republicans looking for a governing agenda if they take control of Congress in November's election—or presidential candidates looking ahead to 2016—will want to take a careful look at Room to Grow, a new electronic book issued by a group called the YG Network.

For the rest of us, the document is a useful marker of where the domestic policy debates stand for a certain network of center-right policy intellectuals—Yuval Levin, Peter Wehner, Ramesh Ponnuru, James Capretta, James Pethokoukis. They are affiliated with think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and the Ethics and Public Policy Center and with publications like National Review, National Affairs, and Commentary. They have close ties to Republican politicians like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (two of the "young guns" that give the YG Network its name), and to Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee.

There is much to like about Room to Grow.

The best part is the introduction by Levin, who describes an approach to domestic policy based on the insight of Friedrich Hayek that knowledge is dispersed.

Levin writes of what he calls a "bottom-up, incremental, continuous learning process, rather than imposing wholesale solutions from above."

He writes of three steps: "experimentation (allowing service providers to try different ways of solving a problem), evaluation (enabling recipients or consumers of those services to decide which approaches work for them and which do not), and evaluation (keeping those that work and dumping those that fail)."

Also valuable are the portions of the book devoted to building on the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform of 1996. The book recommends changing federal anti-poverty programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit so that they no longer penalize recipients when they get married. It speaks of giving state and local governments the option of adding time limits and work requirements in the style of the 1996 welfare reform to other benefit programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing, or of possibly consolidating these and other federal anti-poverty programs.

The energy chapter of the book includes a paragraph urging policymakers to keep in mind the concerns about the use of eminent domain by private companies building oil and gas pipelines. Those property rights concerns are often neglected by conservatives in their pursuit of the jobs and national security benefits of the pipelines.

Other sections of the book, and even some overall themes, seem potentially problematic. The document portrays an obsession with the "middle class." The subtitle of Room to Grow is "Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class." The words "middle class" appear more than 100 times in the document, and if one includes euphemisms like "middle America" or "middle-income," the number climbs above 200. On page 80 of the book alone, the phrase "middle class" appears six times. On the same page, there are five sentences in a row, four of which contain the words "middle class." This emphasis is not accidental. It is deliberate. An introductory essay by Peter Wehner contends "The middle class is America’s center of gravity." It's nonsense worthy of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). It divides America into economic factions rather than uniting us, and it fails to provide any useful response to left-wing demagogues who blame all of America’s problems on the rich (and who think raising taxes on the rich is the solution to those problems).

Tax-wise, the report eschews advocating for further reductions in marginal tax rates, proposing instead an expanded child tax credit, possibly paid for by increasing to 35 percent the rate on income currently taxed at 25 percent.  "Some supply-siders will reflexively cringe at this idea," the report concedes. Though the book carries cover blurbs from supply-side giants Lawrence Kudlow and Grover Norquist, count this columnist as one supply-sider who is, as predicted, cringing at the idea of slapping an income tax increase on childless individuals for the express purpose of redistributing the funds in tax breaks for those with larger families.

Another cringe-worthy idea the report backs is a congressionally funded "social marketing campaign" to encourage young adults to follow a "success sequence," namely, "finish school, get a job, marry, and have children—in that order."

A short list of those who got a job before they finished school—Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg—renders this advice questionable, at best. And the expanded child tax credit the book proposes in the tax chapter is likely to undermine this "success sequence," which sounds suspiciously like one of those "wholesale solutions from above" that Levin so perceptively warned about in his introductory essay.

It's a reminder that in the public policy game, "wholesale solutions from above" are a bipartisan temptation, notwithstanding even the best intentions to the contrary.

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  • AlmightyJB||

    Burkas

  • Gman||

    Swisssolutions.webs.com shows you how to get your money out of the USA, and place it in one or more super solid financial institutions in countries which don't have obnoxious balance sheets, but instead have well managed currencies. All banks and brokerage houses allow Americans to open accounts through the mail and are non FATCA participants.

  • Logical 1||

    Fuck the child tax credit. I'm tired of paying for everyone else's rugrats, especially on the local level where 75% of my town's tax revenues go to the public school system. Where's my credit for not expanding my carbon footprint by pumping out babies?

  • DarrenM||

    Tired until those rugrats have to support you in your old age. Then you will conveniently change your position.

  • craiginmass||

    He won't change his position. He'll just take the money and still complain on internet comment sites.

  • ||

    Ahh, yes, the great left wing critique of capitalism: after you've been robbed by the fascist government for your entire working career, they might foist you into the same wealth redistribution programs as a recipient rather than a contributor, and then you instantly become a hypocrite for failing to renounce your citizenship and move to Somalia. I guess the major benefit of universally supporting thieves and thugs is always being consistent.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    If Logical 1 is roughly 30 years old, the chances of there being anything left to support him are basically zero.

    Math, how does it work?

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    All I am seeing in this article is an exercise in intellectual masturbation. The man and woman in the street (and I'm not talking about "street people") who are educated and qualified, but jobless, will not be comforted until they are gainfully employed.

    They could care less who controls the f***ing Congress, because the Congress is not doing a very good job of anything, except to further the careers of the habitual, career, egotistical a**holes who run it for their own interests.

    That goes for whoever gets in the White House come 2016/2017. All we have now really is one party pretending to be two parties. It would be more honest to rename them the DEMOPUBLICANS. The country is just about f***ed up beyond repair economically and morally anyway.

    It will take a lot more than some plan on a piece of damn paper to fix things.

  • ||

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    PM

    As usual you have failed to refute my comment. If you don't like my premise that some half assed plan thought up by Congress is unlikely to solve any of our country's immediate problems, then you need to say so.

    Unfortunately, all you really ever do is simply dismiss the comments of those whom you don't agree with by holding them up for ridicule. Anyway, that seems to be you mode of operation, so that's pretty much what I expect from you.

    On that note, I guess that all I can really say to you is that you should probably go and buy a cucumber and shove it up your asshole for the intended purpose of stimulating your brain which is located in that area.

    I'm looking forward to more of you responses in the future. In the meantime, if you don't like my posts, then you need to dial 1 800 EAT SHIT.

    Have a nice evening Ass Chunk.

  • ||

    When you post inane gibberish that means nothing you shouldn't expect a lengthy treatise in response. When you come up with anything more sophisticated than REPOOPLIURDS AND DEMOCRAZIES!!!! maybe the adults will let you bring a folding chair over to the table.

    But as you go on to demonstrate at length, that's not gonna happen.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    On The Road To Mandalay|6.9.14 @ 10:34PM|#
    Have a nice evening Ass Chunk.

    That makes my day every time.

  • ||

    A short list of those who got a job before they finished school—Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg—renders this advice questionable, at best.

    A perfectly representative sample of the college dropout community, obviously.

    College clearly isn't for everyone, but suggesting that you're better off dropping out than finishing based on the 4-in-several-million chance you might become a billionaire tech entrepreneur is pretty absurd. The more important takeaway isn't about the utility of finishing or not finishing college, or getting married by X date, or having children, or buying a house. This is a perfect example of the right apparently falling into the same trap routinely occupied by the left where the markers of success are confused with the cause of it. The important takeaway is that, as the introduction argues, knowledge is dispersed. Individuals are in the best position to determine what is best for them. That goes for their college careers, romantic relationships, work lives, etc etc etc.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Well said.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    LynchPin1477,

    I'm ready to have that civil conversation you offered yesterday. Too late for today. Perhaps we can pick it up on another thread/article. Have a nice evening.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    Since we are exchanging insults (which you started), my question is: Were you born an asshole, or did you go to a special school to become one? Just curious. Better yet, are you an abortion who lived?

  • ||

    As usual, your wit is as sharp as your intellect.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    I agree; that's a pretty poorly supported argument.

    At the risk of sounding too linear, "finish school, get a job, marry, and have children—in that order" is generally a more successful plan than the inverse. I watched both of my parents struggle through college after they had kids and full time jobs. It convinced me to finish college while I was otherwise without responsibility.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    My last comment was directed at PM. Does PM stand for Pre-Menstrual or Post-Menopause? Just curious.

  • ||

    Stands for Pwning Mandalay.

  • craiginmass||

    In order to sell crap to people, you must continue to repackage it and rename it.

    Since most of the "old conservative" policies have proven to be either lies or, at best, ineffective, they need to go to market with some different monikers.

  • ||

    In order to sell crap to people, you must continue to repackage it and rename it.

    Not really. The last original ideas the left had were born between 1910 and 1935, and we still pretty much use all of the original titles.

  • politicsbyothermeans||

    "In order to sell crap to people, you must continue to repackage it and rename it."

    No kidding. So what is Mother Jones calling global warming this week?

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