small government, or just low tax burden
I agree with John Schwenkler’s descriptive case in this post, while disagreeing with his prescriptions moving forward.
One thing that I think needs to be pointed out as we consider the major divisions in American policy proposals, and their political consequences, is that those who have worked to reduce lower class and lower middle class American’s federal tax burden have been very successful. All Americans who receive a paycheck continue to pay payroll taxes, and there is a conversation to be had about continuing to lower that burden on the bottom quarter or third of American earners. (The loss in revenue could perhaps be mitigated by means testing Social Security and Medicare benefits.) But the payroll tax burden on the lower classes is modest, and most of the lowest earners pay no federal income taxes at all.
What does this mean for our consideration of politics? Well, for one thing, it disarms traditionalist Republicans: “I’m going to lower your taxes” loses it’s salience if your tax burden is already quite low. I suppose there are those who think pretty much any tax burden is too high, and this doesn’t say anything about state and local politics. But I think it is accurate to say that for the average American in the lower or lower middle class, the tax burden is not nearly the problem that the collapse of the uneducated labor market and flatlining real wages are. This is why Republicans have to find more to sell to the American people; in the face of mounting economic pressures that have nothing to do with tax burden, or the perception of the same, just promising to cut taxes isn’t sufficient.
It’s easy if, like me, you are a college educated person and hang out mostly with other college graduates, to casually overestimate the amount of Americans with college diplomas. Less than a third of Americans have a college degree, which is why rescuing our disastrously poor job market for uneducated workers is both an imperative for government and a key component in the political battle moving forward. The party or ideology that can better address the needs of uneducated workers, primarily by dramatically strengthening their job market, could perhaps gain that permanent majority so many have dreamed about.