Friday, February 12, 2010

And Now for Some GOOD Republican Ideas

George Will, in a column titled Charting a Simple Road to Government Solvency lays out the proposals of Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin (with help, it seems, from Republican representatives Devin Nunes of CA and Jeb Hensarling of TX). The full proposals are available here.

First, on health care: refundable tax credits for purchasing portable coverage in any state, with the link to employment clearly severed. Quoting from Ryan's proposal:
Yet health coverage is currently linked to employment by the individual income tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health care. This tax treatment effectively discriminates against workers and families who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance. Compounding the problem, the number of employers providing health insurance has dropped 69 percent since 2000; and this alarming trend is continuing.

Equalizing the tax treatment of health care and coverage will give workers and families much more freedom to acquire a plan that best suits their needs. Making health insurance portable means an individual no longer will live in fear of losing his or her health care along with a job. As the marketplace begins to respond to this new patient-centered control, the resulting increase in competition will improve the quality of services and provide more options to meet the diverse needs of Americans, while lowering costs.

In addition, Medical Savings Accounts would be strengthened. Medicare would be grandfathered in for older people but younger people would enter a new program that would give them vouchers to buy insurance.

These are significant changes. Intellectually exciting, with the potential to really change the system as we know it (which makes any scoring by the CBO virtually meaningless, as they cannot take account of behavioral changes.)

But Ryan doesn't stop at health care -- he has changes for the tax code and Social Security as well.

As for taxes, he opts for simplicity and incentives: a broad base (no deductions other than the health care credit) and two rates, 10% up to $100,000 and 25% beyond that. Beautiful. (It also solves a problem that a colleague was really harping on the other day to me: that the majority of Americans now pay NO income taxes. What kind of "skin in the game" is that?)

And Social Security, like Medicare, gets grandfathered in for older people but younger people get the option of Personal Retirement Accounts for up to 1/3 of their Social Security taxes.

Nobody can say that the Republicans do not have any ideas. This set of ideas is radical, but based on sound economics and conservative principles (as in, individual responsibility and small government). They could ensure that the US economy would be the most dynamic wealth-producing economy in the world for decades to come.

In fact, these ideas are enough to make me want to join Mr. Ryan and his colleagues.

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