The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Could A Child Tax Credit Finally Become a Reality?

Some American conservatives are finally getting serious about wooing “Sam’s Club” voters. Republican senator Mike Lee has unveiled a new tax plan that would offer a $2,500 per child tax credit to all parents with dependent children. Lee’s speech introducing the idea was refreshing not only because of its meatiness and substance, but also because it distanced itself from some of the tone-deaf rhetoric that got Romney into trouble in the 2012 election campaign. Excerpt:

Family is not just one of the major institutions through which people pursue happiness. It is the one upon which all the others depend.

More than that, in recent years, the family has emerged as perhaps the most important institution in our economy….

The family is where we learn the skills to access and succeed in America’s market economy and civil society…and thereby create new opportunities for others to do the same….

Under the current system, parents receive no additional benefits for having contributed or sacrificed hundreds of thousands of additional dollars raising their kids.

This is the inequity my bill is designed to highlight and address.

The whole speech is worth reading. It has sparked discussion among ideologically diverse voices: socially conservative First Things, predictably, praised the idea, but so did uncategorizable dissident Josh Barro, and a skeptical Matt Ygelsias also weighed in. Republicans can expect this kind of wide-ranging response if they continue to advance proposals aimed at a broad swath of the American middle class—which has largely fallen out of love with Obama’s big government solutions but has yet to find a compelling suitor in the opposition.

The question remains whether enough Senate leadership will support the proposal, amending and scoring it as necessary, or whether establishment resistance will pronounce it dead on arrival. Expanded child tax credits has long been an issue dear to “reformist conservatives,” but the GOP has been slow to act on it, in part because the party mandarins tend to oppose such credits. Perhaps the GOP leadership will finally start to listen to them.

Published on September 19, 2013 4:30 pm
  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    All of the recent Republican success over the last 5 years, including control of the House, has come from the TEA Party base. And yet the TEA Party base has no representation in the Leadership of the Republican Party. Via Meadia justifiably calls them Mandarins, as the only reason they are in the positions they are, is because they were there to begin with, and have successfully resisted removal.

  • lukelea

    I like this idea if the intention is to encourage more middle- and upper-middle class parents to have children.

    Even better would be to count children as “half an adult” and allow “joint” returns so that, for example, a couple filing jointly with two children would divide their adjusted gross income by three (instead of two) in order to determine their tax bracket.

  • Kevin

    I wonder how this sort of “Jacksonian” social policy will play with libertarian minded Republicans. Will Rand Paul join in? A Libertarian-Populist alliance could be strong, either alone will be eaten by the GOP Establishment. Despite their contradictions a short term alliance by these groups might be possible as they each grow increasingly disgusted by the mismanagement and self dealing of the Hamiltonians.