How To Pay for Obama's Preschool Plan

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 15 2013 10:30 AM

Pay for Preschool by Cutting Taxes on the Rich

161705223
President Obama arrives at the White House on Thursday.

Pool photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Near the end of an excellent column about the epistemic modesty and considerable virtues of the Obama administration's preschool plans, David Brooks lets loose with a joke:

President Obama has taken on a big challenge in a realistic and ambitious way. If Republicans really believe in opportunity and local control, they will get on board.

Jonathan Chait agrees with Brooks about the merits but has a slightly less funny path to feasibility in mind that involves a trade-off for Social Security cuts. The big problem with Chait's idea is that liberals hate it, and conservatives hate it, too. Status quo bias is amazing.

Advertisement

The sensible, feasible way to obtain the $100 billion over 10 years that Obama needs to finance his plan is to "pay for it" with a large tax cut for the rich. Democrats like to spend new money on new programs, and Republicans like to cut taxes on the rich. As I wrote in my column on Marco Rubio's embrace of Bushonomics, there really is a difference between the Bush approach and the Boehner approach, and this is exactly where the rubber hits the road. The Bush approach—cut taxes and increase spending to make it politically workable—brought us a large increase in K-12 education spending (No Child Left Behind) and a substantial expansion of Medicare coverage in 2003. Back in the pre-Bush years, a similar approach brought us SCHIP. Bill Clinton got federal money to give health care to poor kids, and got Newt Gingrich to agree to "pay for it" by cutting the capital gains tax.

We haven't seen any of these kind of deals during the Obama administration. That's in part because Barack Obama is a sincere deficit hawk, and in part because Republicans responded to John McCain's defeat by becoming more ideologically rigorous on the spending front. But if you want a bipartisan agreement to create a new federal program, then paying for it is the last thing you want to do. You want to trade it for the tax cuts conservatives crave.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s  Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 12:07 PM Divestment Isn’t the Answer To destroy demand for fossil fuels, universities can do a lot better than just selling some stocks.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 12:00 PM Dear Prudence Live Chat For September 22, 2014.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:21 PM Watch John Oliver Take on Miss America
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 11:32 AM South Park Takes on Washington’s NFL Team and Its Terrible Name
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.