Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner add their contributions to the growing list of potential Republican Party reforms via the latest cover story in Commentary magazine. Among their article’s most interesting suggestions is one involving targeted corporate tax breaks and giveaways.
Given the feeble path of economic growth, reasonable tax rates and a rational tax code are prerequisites for future job creation at sufficient levels. Given the unsustainable path of health-oriented entitlement spending—which threatens to crowd out every other form of federal spending—some party must rise to responsibility. And given the vast potential economic advantage of newly discovered energy sources—both natural gas and shale oil—Republicans should stand for their responsible exploitation.
But gaining a fair hearing on any of these issues requires changing an image that the GOP is engaged in class warfare on behalf of the upper class. Republicans could begin by becoming visible and persistent critics of corporate welfare: the vast network of subsidies and tax breaks extended by Democratic and Republican administrations alike to wealthy and well-connected corporations. Such benefits undermine free markets and undercut the public’s confidence in American capitalism. They also increase federal spending. The conservative case against this high-level form of the dole is obvious, and so is the appropriate agenda: cutting off the patent cronyism that infects federal policy toward energy, health care, and the automobile and financial-services industries, resulting in a pernicious and corrupting system of interdependency. “Ending corporate welfare as we know it”: For a pro-market party, this should be a rich vein to mine.