David Brooks calls for a Fresh Start Conservatism:
If I were advising the Republican nominee, this is one of the places I’d ask him to plant his flag. I’d ask him to call for a new human capital revolution, so that the U.S. could recapture the spirit of reforms like the Morrill Act of the 19th century, the high school movement of the early 20th century and the G.I. Bill after World War II.
But this will add to government spending so how does Brooks propose to pay for this:
Income taxes are not going to be coming down, but they need to stay where they are. As Edward Prescott has shown, higher taxes mean less work, and less work means less worker development.
Matthew Yglesias discusses the details of the Brooks proposal and notes that it would “cost a lot of money”. Matthew questions how we would we pay for this:
These reform proposals are good idea, but they’re not an alternative to the traditional liberal notion that if you want better outcomes for kids you’re going to have to spend more money on kids. But higher taxes are off the table. So where does that leave us? You’d need to pare entitlements pretty severely just to stop the costs from rising. Are we cutting the defense budget instead of continuing on the path of large annual increases? I don’t want to dismiss the possibility out of hand; I’d certainly favor something like that. But does Brooks?
Brad DeLong went further:
Everybody like me has a big problem with Brooks. He is certainly intelligent. But has he just not done his homework, and does he not know that his program doesn’t add up–is he just lazy? Or does he know very well that his proposals are b—s— and not care because he is not in the informing-the-public business but is instead playing some deep political game to try to get White House mess privileges for his friends? Or both? And everybody like me has a big problem with an organization–like the New York Times–that gives a platform to Brooks. Don’t they have any ethics? Don’t they think they ought to be in the inform-the-public business? Yet there is not even a single phone call from an editor saying, “David, it’s your column, but this just doesn’t add up…”
Even if we do not add to government spending in this way, we have a massive Federal deficit problem. One could say all politicians make spending promises as if money just grows on trees. But Brooks wants to pretend his is a journalist. Does he even have a clue as to the long-term fiscal mess even without new government spending programs? Now this education proposal may be an excellent idea – but let’s not kid ourselves. Funding it will mean higher taxes.