This is a pretty terrific article by Matt Lewis about the struggles of people at the lower end of the income distribution and how bad decisions in one’s teens and twenties cause more long-term harm for those whose families have the least. Lewis says:

This is a topic that deserves the attention of our political leaders. And perhaps, it finally will get it. There seems to be a strong indication that many working-class whites in the rust belt simply couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. There is an opening for a political party to address these populist concerns. Will anyone answer the call?

I’d add not just working-class whites. There is a limit to what any even remotely possible set of policies can do, but there are some things. You could make the health insurance tax deduction into a flat and allow workers without access to employer-provided insurance to buy their own policies. You could adopt family-friendly tax reform and allow struggling working parents to keep more of their earnings. Ross Douthat said a lot of what needed to be said earlier this week. Not every social problem can be fixed by government policy but we would be better off if “all the decisions that promise to take Americans from that kind of dependency into self-sufficiency —moving from off-the-books labor to on-the-books work, from disability to employment, from a low-wage job to a better-paying one — would be easier to make if the available jobs paid a little more, and if every paycheck and potential raise were taxed a little less.”

This is just one more reminder of the moral and political fiasco that was the Romney campaign. Read the Lewis and column and think about how the Republicans ran the candidate of the infamous forty-seven percent comment, and further remember that this candidate ran on cutting the top marginal income tax rate by twenty percent. It wasn’t just that these were mistakes, it was that they were the precise opposite of the correct right-leaning approach to policy under current circumstances. The problems of those who are at (or under) the median income are much more urgent than the non-problem of further reducing the George W. Bush era marginal tax rates on high earners. The center-right does have (some) policies for ameliorating these problems. Republican presidential candidates might be more trusted by more voters at every level of the income distribution if they focused more of their attention on policies directly impact the working and aspiring middle-classes.

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