You should take it as a given that Talking Points is involved in more or less constant communication and negotiations with wags and wonks from across the political spectrum searching for ways to stick it to the folks currently running the show at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And along those lines, here’s a thought.
It sounds like there’s ample ground for a possible meeting of the minds between certain Dems (Dems, of the TPM variety at least) and the National Greatness Conservative / Reform / McCainite wing of the GOP on the tax cut front. Here’s the idea.
Many of these NGCs aren’t too crazy about the Bush tax cut. They’re not up in arms about it exactly. But they think it’s too regressive, that it should put more emphasis on middle income families.
How about a tax cut with a substantial payroll tax rebate plus a dramatically increased and refundable child tax credit? There’s very little in that which a progressive could disagree with — at least certain progressives. It’s also across the board — every gets the payroll tax rebate and everyone with kids gets the tax credit. And for the NGCs, well, they can just see the child tax credit as a school voucher. The thought has occurred to at least one of them.
Such a package would address much of what both groups say they believe in.
Now one problem is size. How big would it be? For my part I wouldn’t have a lot of trouble with the price tag being pretty high — say in the trillion dollar range, or perhaps even a touch higher? (Don’t quote me on that — I’m still thinking it over.) But the fiscal discipline issue is a very important one for the Democrats today. Not just for substantive reasons and for its political potency but also for the way it knits together different factions within the party, the way it allows them to have something to agree on to mask over other differences.
So that’s one problem.
Another problem is that Dems may fear that if they legitimized the idea of a tax cut on that scale they’d lose one of their major arguments against the Bush plan. And they might be right.
There’s also a problem on the NGC side of the equation.
The NGCs are very much like Scoop Jackson Democrats from the 1970s — a handful of brainy thinkers, an equal number of pithy writers, and exactly one elected politician. And even that one with a questionable future.
(In fact the NGCs aren’t just like Scoop Jackson Democrats. A few who are old enough actually were Scoop Jackson Democrats. But that’s another story.)
The relevant point is that it’s not really clear what troops they can put on the field — and so far even McCain has been a no-show in the tax debate.
Still, it’s an interesting possibility.