November 4, 2013

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Labor Republicanism.

Mike Lee, the senator from Utah, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation last week that demands attention. The takeaway: Candidates need policy ideas that address the concerns of ordinary voters—and they have to campaign, and win, on those ideas. Lee noted that conservative scholars have a number of imaginative proposals that try to address the breakdown of the family, the rising cost of health insurance and higher education, the lengthening suburban commute, and out-of-control entitlement spending. Read an issue of National Affairs (or The Weekly Standard!) if you doubt him. But Republican officeholders haven’t picked up the torch. The GOP elite is stuck in the policy thinking of the Reagan Revolution. “Instead of emulating that generation,” Lee said, “too many Republicans today mimic them—still advocating policies from a bygone age.”

What made the speech compelling was that Lee didn’t limit himself to a critique. He announced four specific proposals—to aid families raising kids, facing the challenge of balancing work life and home life, spending too much time sitting in gridlock, and struggling to afford a college education. All four are worthy of consideration. His tax plan would simplify and reduce rates and offer a $2,500 per-child credit (up from $1,000 today) that would offset both income and payroll taxes. His reform of labor laws would allow employees who work overtime to take comp time or flex time in lieu of pay—an option currently available to federal workers but not to the rest of us. His transportation bill would lower the federal gas tax and devolve power to the states and localities. And his education proposal would create a new optional system of accreditation: “States could accredit online courses, or hybrid models with elements on and off campus.” Parents and students would have more flexibility. They’d also have more choices.

The GOP leadership should be learning from him, instead of trying to snuff him out.

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