Things That Could Have Been Brought To My Attention Yesterday

In today's Journal, Newt Gingrich and Peter Ferrara argue that instead of Barack Obama's hodgepodge of tax credits, we should have a straightforward middle-class tax cut that lowers the 25 percent bracket to 15 percent. It would also be nice, they note, to cut taxes for everyone else as well, and to lower corporate rates and capital gains rates. But "in the current political climate," they allow, "we should focus on the middle-income tax rates that are attractive to cut ... This would continue the tax cuts for low- and moderate-income workers Republicans have been adopting for 30 years now."

I'm very glad to see Newt Gingrich coming around to the idea that Republicans shouldn't just say "cut capital-gains taxes!" in response to every political and economic circumstance. I would have been even gladder, though, if he had come around during the 2008 Presidential campaign, when it might have made a difference. "Tax cuts for low- and moderate-income workers" was exactly the kind of thing the McCain campaign needed to be selling, and wasn't. Yet you can search Gingrich's pre-election commentary in vain for any hint that the "current political climate" might require that the GOP present a slightly different tax message than the one McCain was offering. Indeed, less than a month before the election, Gingrich and Ferrara took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to critique Obama's tax plan, and offer a conservative alternative to "benefit middle-America." Their alternative consisted of  ... corporate tax cuts, capital-gains tax cuts, and private accounts carved out of Social Security. 

I'm glad, as I said, that defeat seems to have had a clarifying effect upon Newt's views on tax policy. I'm just wish that his change of heart had happened when the GOP was still in a position to profit from his advice.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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