It seems like just yesterday that conservatism’s talkers praised the sanity and adulthood of Congressman Paul Ryan. Unlike his Democratic colleagues, he was willing to talk straight about the unsustainability of our entitlement and tax structure.
So much for that. Conservatives’ response to the debt commission draft report is an embarrassment.
Last week, in anticipation of the report, Mark Levin ripped the idea of modifying the home interest mortgage deduction. Remember when conservatives opposed the idea of ‘spreading the wealth,’ social engineering, and the federal government meddling to promote home ownership?
Well, what exactly does Mr. Levin think the mortgage deduction is?
It is social engineering by the federal government to promote home ownership through an inefficient manipulation of the tax code. It is extremely regressive, helping those with the largest mortgages, and the opportunity to itemize, the most. By allowing for the deduction of interest on home equity lines of credit, it literally requires renters, and even lower and middle income home owners, to subsidize the consumer purchases of the wealthy.
Oh, and for good measure, it is brought to you by a special interest that benefits monetarily from the inflated home prices that invariably result from the deduction.
I guess not all ‘spreading of the wealth’ is created equal.
As sorry as Mr. Levin’s ‘argument’ was, I almost fell out of my chair listening to Hannity’s commentary on the debt commission.
He described the proposal to means-test social security as “unconscionable.”
What happened to the grown-up recognition that there is no lock-box, that the system is a ponzi scheme, and that there will be nothing there for younger Americans? If this is in fact a welfare system, one with benefits that can be taken away from you, rather than a true personal retirement system, why not treat it as a welfare program?
To do so is responsible, not unconscionable.
There are sound reasons to treat any recommendations for changes to taxes and benefits with caution. When I read Ezra Klein last week, I assumed someone at The Heritage Foundation had stolen his laptop. The man was recommending, modifying the tax treatment of health care, the mortgage-interest deduction, and corporate taxes. He proposed a consumption tax. It sounded like he was reading from the talking points of conservative economists.
But then you realize what he left off of his list — the deduction of state and local income taxes — your hackles go up. After promoting a massive expansion of federal obligations through the stimulus and health care bills, he suddenly favors massive modifications of the tax code that will conveniently finance those obligations and curry favor with the corporate stakeholders who are now ‘shared partners’ in the system.
But he leaves alone the incredibly expensive deduction of state and local taxes that happen to prop up the massive public programs, and the public employee unions that staff them, in Blue States.
Still, Ezra is right. All of those things on his list, and then some, should be on the table.
As this debate goes forward, conservatives need to make smart arguments against otherwise sound modifications to taxes and benefits that will only subsidize unreformed federal programs that remain on the same unsustainable trajectory.
Sadly, the conservative talkers are not making them.