1. I agree with Pete and Carl on the Seidman article. Nonetheless, it obviously has no legs. Here was (libertarian judicial activist) Randy Barnett’s reaction: Well, now we can get the income tax declared overturned if we can get five votes.
2. That reminds me of all the political lessons I learned talking with a couple of Tea Partiers and a couple of other conservatives for a few hours the other day.
3. One of their vehicles had this (now quaint) bumper sticker: 2010—The Second American Revolution.
4. A particularly eloquent guy reported that he had campaigned for Romney in Florida with “Americans for Prosperity” funded, of course, by the Koch brothers. On the long drive down to the I-10 corridor, they called various registered Floridians to ask them if Obama had made the economy better or worse over the last four years. Out of any 10 calls, four said better and four said worse. They targeted the wafflers for in-person visits. They thought if they talked them into worse they would vote for Romney.
5. Another guy spotted big flaws in this approach. Here’s one: The Americans suffering disproportionally from the jobless semi-recovery, such as African Americans and Hispanics, were going to stay with the president anyway. Take them out of the picture and the economy just wasn’t bad enough to turn out the president. And in any case, there were other issues besides “prosperity,” such as the constitutionality of ObamaCare, entitlement reform, and the family.
6. The Tea Partiers—like too many Republicans—have big problems with the income tax as such. They, despite the 16th Amendment and all, really think that it’s unconstitutional to tax production, as opposed to consumption. That’s why they’re so hostile to anyone who votes for any kind of INCOME tax increase.
7. The Tea Partiers really believed Romney would win and the revolution against the unconstitutional welfare state as such would continue. When I said that there was no evidence in the week or two before the election that that would happen, they admitted they were “high on 2010” and its attendant fantasies.
8. So just like many Republicans, they’re overstating the significance of the election of 2012 as much as they overstated the significance of 2010. As much as Romney, they’re thinking too poorly of too many of their fellow citizens for how and (the Tea Partiers imagine) why they voted.
9. They’re impatient with the idea of entitlement REFORM—mending, not ending, the key features of our minimalist safety net—because they think we live in REVOLUTIONARY times with high constitutional significance. In the same way, they can’t see why the Republicans in Congress should compromise with the president even now. That’s compromising with evil-doing progressivism.
10. The real plight of one of the guys around the table showed the kind of reform we need. He is one of the most brilliant and admirable graduates of Berry College ever. He went to law school—instead of pursuing a PhD—for the highly responsible reason of wanting to provide for his family. Well, he graduated from law school at the wrong time, can only find contract work (because most firms have realized that what associates used to do can be more cheaply contracted out), and is saddled with law-school debt.
11. So he’s self-employed. He’s married with children and not rich, and so under the family-friendly Bush tax cut he pays little to no income tax. But he has to pay very significant self-employment tax, which is not calibrated to family size. So he’s actually part of the 47% if you go with income tax alone, but his actual tax burden—as a percentage of his income—is around Mitt’s.
12. Not only that, his job doesn’t include benefits, and so he’s been stuck with paying some big hospital bills at the retail level.
13. This guy doesn’t whine, and he’s doing fine by his family despite it all. Still: Shouldn’t a Republican priority be tax, health-care, and entitlement reform with the self-employed in mind? Like it or not, more and more of us are going to be self-employed. Fewer and fewer (and ObamaCare is going to help to accelerate this trend) are going to be covered by employer-based health care. Don’t Republicans have to tell the truth that we have to devolve insurance to the individual with appropriate, means-based government subsidies, making sure that affordable insurance is available to everyone? This brilliant and admirably responsible independent contractor reminds us how regressive our current system is in so many respects. Single-payer health-care insurance is unsustainable, and employer-based is unjust (and probably also unsustainable).
14. Of course, the true Tea Partier wants all the safety net abolished on behalf of a new birth of constitutional freedom. But one reason Romney lost is that too many struggling, working-class Americans thought he—to cut the taxes of really rich guys—wanted that too.
15. So I agree, as usual, with Pete: The Republicans need to focus on what Levin and Capretta tell us about entitlement reform, the demographic crisis, and doing what we can to shore up the family and other “intermediary” or relational institutions between the individual and big, impersonal government.