Mike Lee Wants Conservatives to Stop Calling Poor People Moochers

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 30 2013 10:40 AM

Mike Lee Wants Conservatives to Stop Calling Poor People Moochers

184406732
"Working parents are not free riders," he told the Heritage Foundation Tuesday.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

That's not all he said, but the Utah senator's speech at the Heritage Foundation has been heralded by many on the right and hardly noticed on the left. "I hope other Tea Party conservatives follow Lee’s lead," says Reihan Salam. "Can’t all reasonable people agree to ignore Mike Lee completely until he says he was wrong about the shutdown?" asks Marc Tracy.

Eh, Salam is closer to the point. The media prefers bluster to wonkery, which often makes sense (it's easier to bluster than to pass a bill!), but Lee's always been a careful thinker. As Salam notes, Lee does not talk about ending energy taxes, but about distributing them to the states. You live in a state with low gas taxes? It gets less federal money as the federal gas tax dwindles. 

Just as interesting is Lee's embrace of Jonathan Last's (and by extension Steve Sailer's) thinking on the goals of making it more affordable to have a family. As he does so, he contradicts eons of Randian table-pounding about how those who pay no net income tax are lazy.

The heart of the plan is a new, additional $2,500 per-child tax credit that can offset parents’ income and payroll-tax liability. This last point is crucial. Many middle-class parents may pay no income taxes — but they do pay taxes. Working parents are not free riders.
Actually, when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, parents pay twice: first when they pay their payroll taxes, just like everyone else, and then again, by bearing the enormous costs of raising their kids, who will grow up to not only pay taxes, but cure diseases, and invent the next iPhone, and most importantly, provide their parents with grandkids!
Advertisement

Compare that with the idea that—to coin a phrase—47 percent of people don't pay taxes and think they're entitled. Lee doesn't think that a tax system skewed to encourage good behavior makes people lazy. In 2013, this is a bold thing for a Republican to say.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 23 2014 9:01 AM Tristan Da Cunha: Life on the World's Most Remote Island
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:46 AM How Men Talk About Relationships in Rom-Coms: While Playing Sports
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
  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.