THE NEXT CONSERVATISM? It’s a <a href = http

//www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/312korit.asp target = _blank>long essay in the new Weekly Standard, but well worth reading. Authored by Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat (who are friends and former guest-bloggers in this space), the essay is so wide-ranging I’m not going to summarize it. But here’s a proposal I like a lot. It’s to do with taxes. Reihan-Ross raise the idea of reforming the curent system and would

remove all families earning less than $100,000 from the tax rolls. For those who want to see a daring tax reform that leaves an impression in voters’ minds and pocketbooks, this would be an avenue worth exploring.

Recall that the income tax was originally designed as a single-rate tax on a relatively small number of high earners. We still have something like it today, in the form of the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was designed to ensure that the affluent pay at least some income tax. Bush’s tax commission has called for the abolition of the AMT, which isn’t indexed to inflation and will start biting into middle-class paychecks within the decade. But perhaps the GOP should consider an alternative: Why not reform the AMT and abolish the regular income tax instead?

Michael J. Graetz of Yale Law School, hardly a wild-eyed utopian, has called this the “back to the future” plan. Graetz would raise the AMT exemption to $50,000 for single-earners and $100,000 for joint returns, and impose a single rate of 25 percent on all earnings over those thresholds. To replace the lost revenue, he would also–and this is the controversial part–introduce a consumption tax of 14 percent.

The essay is packed with provocative ideas like these. It grapples with health-care in a way that avoids the pitfalls of socialism but moves us toward a more rational, universal insurance system. It’s also pro-family in a manner that makes a lot of sense to me. We need to support those who are rearing the next generation more effectively than we now do (and I’d include, of course, gay parents in this). Anyway, read the piece. You’ll find plenty to agree and disagree with, but the debate itself is overdue.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY I: “As a student of history and a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, I long have been impressed by the example of George Washington, who was a strong believer in fiscal discipline. In his 1796 farewell address, Washington admonished the nation to avoid ‘not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.’ Americans today would be wise to heed Washington’s timeless wisdom.” – David Walker, Comptroller General of the U.S., in a piece titled, “Spending Is Out Of Control.”

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