In case you've missed it, two of Ricochet's finest minds, Ben Domenech and Jim Pethokoukis, have been engaged in an ongoing (and characteristically civil and good-natured) debate about the future of the Republican Party for the past week or so (The first entries are here and here).
Today, they continued the cyber-jousting. Here's Ben at RealClearPolitics:
... The whole point of starting with the argument for a flat tax is to end up with a tax structure that looks more like Simpson-Bowles and less like the mess we have today. The implication that Republicans can’t be pro-jobs/economy if they are pro-balanced budget strikes me as wrongheaded. And I hardly think Republican tax proposals beyond a flat tax consist only of “slashing top marginal rates” – it is certainly not one of my own priorities, nor has it been part of the GOP platform since 2003, with more energy focused on preventing rates from going up or on wholesale tax reform.
Of course Republicans need to become more sophisticated in how they connect tax reform policy to the challenges Americans face in their daily lives. Better analytics is not a strategy. But this does not demand that they ditch the populist goal. You make the case for a flat tax not as a purist aim, but because it makes logical sense to the people, even if you just end up getting to a flatter tax because of it.
And here's Jim, from part of his response at AEI:
I am not arguing that we don’t need to do anything about spending, only that we should be realistic. As I point out in a National Review column today, keeping spending only a couple of percentage points above its historical average will be hard work. Keeping budget deficits low, much less running surpluses, will also likely require revenue above historical levels. I think balanced budget amendments and superlow rate tax reform (or flat taxes) of the sort GOPers have been proposing make the math impossible.
It's a sophisticated, insightful discussion. Have a gander at the whole thing and tell us how you feel about the points being argued. Is a flat tax worth pursuing? How important is balancing the budget? Are the standard conservative talking points on the economy open to the criticism of being insufficiently appealing to the middle class? Let us know what you think in the comments.