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Megan McArdle

Tax Cuts Can't Motivate the Republican Base Anymore

Federal taxes are so low that it's not a "get out the vote" issue.
Obama kept middle-class tax rates near the floor.

Obama kept middle-class tax rates near the floor.

Photographer: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Yesterday, in discussing the lower- and middle-class workers who have been increasingly displaced by automation and trade, I wrote that both parties are simply reiterating longstanding policy preferences that are far more geared to the desires of their respective elites, than to the difficulties these people encounter in their every day lives. In another column soon, I’ll talk about why the standard Democratic economic package is not making more inroads with this group. But today, I’m going to talk about why what the Republicans have been offering -- tax cuts and deregulation -- falls so flat.

I’ve been urging Republicans to find an agenda beyond tax cuts for a while, with no notable success. Mostly I’ve focused on the budget logic, which is simply this: we’ve run out of our ability to cut taxes without substantial cuts to entitlements, and the collapse of Bush’s Social Security reform illustrated that Republicans have absolutely no stomach for cutting entitlements.