Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The GOP should forget healthcare for now

Now that ObamaCare is the law of the land, the question for Republicans is what to do next. Talk of repeal may make a few headlines during the campaign, but I'm not yet convinced that this is in any way serious or presents a real path for electoral success in 2010 or, more importantly, 2012.

The difficulty is that the healthcare reform is phased in slowly enough that its negative effects definitely won't be visible eight months from now and maybe not even in 2012. This includes some of the major tax provisions as well. If a majority of people have yet to feel the pain and put even a small chance on the possibility that the reform will benefit them, how do Republicans benefit from its current unpopularity? Maybe they can't, so what should they do.

Perhaps a bold stroke of legislative jujitsu may be in order. Why not let the legal challenges to reform make their way through the courts and just forget healthcare in 2010 and 2012, at least until it's clear that this was a mistake and the cry for reform or repeal is overwhelming. Instead, why can't Republicans spearhead some transformational change of their own on an issue that is near and dear to their hearts: taxes. Specifically, tax simplification.

The tax system in this country is so complex and common place, it isn't even any longer recognized for what it is, a tool of oppression. But at the same time, we have a history of taxing income, so abandoning that system altogether may no longer be realistic. Simplifying the tax code so that the average American can very easily calculate his own tax bill on a form the size of a post card would be the kind of fundamental change that Republicans could campaign and win on.

Want to be fiscally responsible? Make the simplifications revenue neutral. Once people understand what they are paying, then we can talk about how much to pay. This transparency could help the conversation on entitlement reform for the same reason. Just think of the contrast that could be drawn: Obamacare enacts numerous new taxes and an expanded IRS force to collect them. Tax simplification means fewer taxes and fewer IRS agents.

These make great talking points, but more important this would be a step toward smaller government and greater liberty. You know, the things that Republicans are always promising, but somehow never get around to delivering.

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