Not sure about this but it's a theory
The person who is elected president will need concrete proposals, but the G.O.P. contenders scarcely have them. Mike Huckabee has some sketchy plans. John McCain answered one element of middle-class anxiety yesterday with his new health care plan. Others seem to have decided concrete proposals are for geeks. In this way, the Republican Party has abandoned the Hamiltonian ground. It has lost intimate contact with the working-class dreamer who longs to make good.
Instead this ground is being seized by a Democrat. Over the past few months, Hillary Clinton has issued a string of specific policy programs aimed directly at members of the aspiring middle class. Yesterday, it was a tax credit for college. Earlier in the week, Clinton offered a plan to give families down the income scale access to 401(k)-style plans. Right now, 75 million workers have no employee-sponsored pension accounts. The way our tax code is structured, people up the income ladder get big tax incentives to save, while working people, who have the most trouble saving, get the smallest incentives.
Under the Clinton plan, if a family making up to $60,000 a year put $1,000 into a new 401(k) account, they would get a $1,000 matching tax credit. The plan would create millions of new investors. Struggling families could choose mutual fund options and participate in the capital markets. They'd be encouraged to move away from a month-to-month mentality to a saving-for-the-future mentality.
Clinton's plan poaches on economic values that used to be associated with the Republican Party. Moreover, it undermines the populist worldview that is building on the left of her party. Instead of railing against globalization and the economic royalists, Clinton gives working people access to Wall Street and a way to profit from the global economy.
No Republican would design asset-building plans the way Clinton does. No Republican would pay for them the way she does. But at least she has a middle-class agenda. Right now, the general election campaign looks like it's going to be a replay of the S-chip debate. The Democrats propose something, and the Republicans have no alternative.
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