Economy & Jobs

Reformicons: Young Conservatives Pushing for Targeted Tax Reform

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Traditionally, Republicans support broad-based tax cut policies. But a new group of young conservatives, dubbed reformicons, is pushing Republican presidential candidates to consider more targeted tax breaks instead. The push is getting mixed reviews from politicians and policy groups.

Who Are the Reformicons?

“Reformicons” is short for reform conservatives, a group of Republicans who believe that, to survive, the party must change some of its ideals and address contemporary economic issues. The movement became publicly recognized in 2014 after the New York Times published an article on the group’s beliefs. There are about 50 recognized reformicon members, most of them in their 30s. Some of the group’s prominent members include former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs; Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for the National Review; and Michael Strain, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute.

In March 2014, the reformicons met at a YG Network conference to put together an agenda that Republican presidential candidates might consider.

What Reformicons Want

Reformicons are concerned that traditional Republican tax strategies might not help the middle class enough. They argue for new policies and tax changes that could better serve Americans, including:

  • Creating new targeted tax credits and subsidies to help the unemployed and the middle class
  • Cutting the minimum wage, especially to encourage employers to hire those who’ve been out of work for more than six months, and letting federal subsidies increase salaries to minimum wage levels instead
  • Financing higher education more, or setting up a system where investors fund students’ education, and possibly docking colleges when students don’t pay back loans
  • Giving much higher tax benefits to parents
  • Realizing that some capitalistic policies, such as top-tier income bracket tax cuts, can hurt conservative ideals by making it more difficult for families to find financial freedom

How Others Are Reacting

The young conservatives are still ironing out the details, but their ideas have already become controversial. Traditional Republicans are concerned that reformicons are marginalizing the importance of broad-based tax cuts. For example, according to The Wall Street Journal, some GOP economists worry that Democrats might propose better tax subsidies and credits than reformicons, creating a losing battle or a bidding war. Other conservatives have voiced more biting criticism. A commentary in the Conservative Review says that the group is shadowing Democrats, simply working to make big government even bigger. Some publications that lean more liberal, such as Salon, refer to the reformicons as “phony reformers.”

Despite this criticism, potential Republican presidential candidates are meeting with reformicons. Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker have all met with members of the group to discuss their ideas and consider adding them to their platforms. Reformicons say that their proposals aren’t an attempt to shift the Republican party from the right wing to a more central position. Instead, they are creatively advocating new ways to help the middle class, with a mixture of ideas that are both liberal and conservative.

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