I think William McGurn puts little too much stress on the whole Obama “Life of Julia” slideshow, but he does raise the perfectly reasonable question of why so many middle-class Americans decided that Obama had their back while Romney was indifferent at best. Let’s take a look at how the postelection Republican rethink is going. One Republican tax proposal is pretty complicated, but it looks like it would create a “tax bubble.” People earning from between $250,000 and $400,000 would pay a greater than 40% marginal income tax rate on money earned between $250,000 and $400,000. But any money earned over $400,000 would be taxed at a lower 35% tax rate. This doesn’t concern Julia (or most of the rest of us) directly, but why would you construct at tax code in which the highest earners pay a lower marginal income tax rate than the somewhat less wealthy?
Then there is the support of many Republicans for a “guest worker” program. There is just so much wrong here. A guest worker program is contrary to how most Americans (of all ethnicities) think a reformed immigration system should operate. Most Americans would prefer to move American immigration policy in the direction of higher skill, higher education immigrants. Guest worker programs also take exactly the wrong approach to immigration apart from the immigrant’s education or skill level. We should be welcoming future American citizens, not importing a laboring class that is formally barred from citizenship. A “guest worker” class is also absurd in the medium-to-long-term since we are a country with constitutionally-granted birthright citizenship. A simple increase in permanent resident worker visas would be both more politically transparent and more socially healthy. Guest worker programs only make sense if every other policy priority is subordinated to the goal of importing low wage labor under conditions that maximize employer leverage in the short-term.
So what might Julia (or Jules, or just somebody reading the paper) think of all this? It might look to Julia that the Republicans concluded from their election defeat that they should become even more obnoxiously the party of
high earners “job creators.” Maybe Republicans could spend more of their time on the legitimate public policy concerns that Julia has and focus on conservative policy solutions that would make it cheaper and easier for her to get an education, make it easier for Julia and her spouse to raise their children through a more family friendly tax code, and reform the health insurance system so that Julia and her family have more take home pay while retaining access to high quality health care. As Ramesh Ponnuru wrote today, as long as Republicans lack a policy agenda that speaks directly to the concerns of the middle and working-classes (as distinct from the alleged indirect benefits of cutting taxes on high earners), Republican candidates are going to continue to have tough election nights unless circumstances are overwhelmingly favorable. I’d also add that the more a Republican economic message of “cut tax rates on high earner job creators who built that” fails, the more some will be inclined to blame pro-lifers for the party’s woes.