Sam Brownback and Washington Half-Asses

Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), formerly known as a half-assed presidential candidate, showed himself to be a half-assed policy wonk yesterday. He co-authored an opinion piece (with David Blankenhorn) called “End the Welfare Marriage Penalty.” Titled End the Welfare Marriage Penalty they make the entirely sensible argument that current welfare rules discourage marriage among the poor. If you get married you lose benefits.

Some time ago there was an effort to reduce taxes on married couples, as in some situations the fact that a couple is married caused them to pay higher taxes than if they were not married. I actually have clients who divorced for this reason but stayed together, then remarried recently when their situation changed so that marriage did not cause a big tax hit. So that was and/or is a real consequence of our tax policy.

Brownback explains how the welfare system imposes similarly bad incentives on those getting welfare, and further how bad that is for the poor and for society. Again, this was a well-reasoned argument.

But then he says this:
Our proposal is simple: … We should allow newly married couples to continue to receive all of their benefits for the first three years of marriage, thus mitigating the marriage penalty currently paid by lower-income couples. … When that day comes, the government’s message to low-income Americans will have changed dramatically. We will be saying: Your marriage matters – for you and for all of us.

Sam Brownback has been in Washington so long he probably doesn’t see how half-assed this is. He wants to end the marriage penalty by putting it off for three years. You see Senator, if you want to end something, you end it. You don’t delay it.

Sam Brownback is really saying this: My message to low-income Americans has changed slightly … I’m saying: Your marriage matters – for three years. After that we don’t care any more.

When they “ended” the marriage tax penalties, did they just end them for three years after marriage? Certainly not. How does Brownback’s proposal discourage divorce? It doesn’t. It does nothing for those who are already married and on welfare.

Maybe this is Brownback’s stab at becoming the VP nominee for John McCain. Or maybe he’s trying to establish some policy credentials for his 2012 run for President after McCain gets trounced by Obama. What it shows is how years inside the Beltway can warp your thinking. In the good old days they did one term and got out as fast as they could.

4 comments to Sam Brownback and Washington Half-Asses

  • There’s a lot that can be said about Sam Brownback, mostly negative with his strange views on censorship considering he prides himself on economic conservatism. Really, when I looked over what the Club for Growth had to say about his fiscal record…I was actually interested in him for President, at least for a little while.

    The other thing about Sam Brownback…is that he self-term limited. What do I mean? He promised only X number of terms, and he’s sticking to it. Sure, he got national name recognition running for President…but he’s not running for reelection. He promised he was done this year, and he really meant it. There’s something to actually be said about that.

    Maybe you’re right, tho, in that he’s trying to position himself as a good VP choice. He isn’t…but it’s entirely plausible. McCain needs to consider picking up a running mate with executive experience like Tim Pawlenty or Mark Sanford…but I digress.

  • Anonymous

    Your opinion doesn’t matter, and nobody reads your blog. Remember when you lost?

  • Always nice to get positive feedback. I’ve lost so many elections I’m not sure what anonymous is referring to. I did win my last one though. :-)

  • Oh, and a lot of people read my blog. It’s about 1000 people a month actually, with more on my other blog.