Despite Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Hogan’s effort to turn attention away from social questions such as same-sex marriage and abortion rights, his campaign is turning out to be the perfect illustration of Republican demographic and policy problems.
The Washington Post recently highlighted Hogan’s call for tax cuts targeted at the elderly:
Speaking at a retirement community along with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Mr. Hogan said that once he gets spending under control, his administration would “completely eliminate state income taxes for pensions and retirement income.”
As is disappointingly customary for too many Republican candidates, he made no mention of the spending reductions needed to pay for these tax cuts that just happen to be popular with the high-turnout elderly electorate:
We’d like to report that, along with his blockbuster tax cut proposal, Mr. Hogan released detailed projections showing how much revenue it would cost the state and which programs he would target for commensurate spending reductions. But we can’t, because he didn’t.
Hogan’s choices mirror directly the current state of the national Republican coalition, and the surprisingly non-conservative, irresponsible policy cul-de-sac that follows from their imperative to cater to it. David Frum explained it well in a must-read article in Foreign Affairs:
Republicans have come to rely more and more on the votes of the elderly, the most government-dependent segment of the population — a serious complication for a party committed to reducing government. . . .
What boomers mean when they call themselves conservative is that they have begun to demand massive cutbacks to spending programs that do not directly benefit them. Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. Not surprisingly, then, boomers say they want no change at all to the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have begun to qualify for.
Boomers’ conservatism is founded on their apprehension that there’s not enough to go around — and on their conviction that what little resources there are should accrue to them. . . . It might seem paradoxical that people on Medicare, or soon to qualify for it, would oppose a further expansion of the government’s role in health care, but it actually makes perfect sense: boomer conservatives fear that government in the age of Obama will serve somebody else’s interests at the expense of their own.
Republicans have responded to boomers’ fears by reinventing themselves as defenders of the fiscal status quo for older Americans — and only older Americans. . . . [T]he GOP has rejected changes to retirement programs that might in any way impinge on current beneficiaries. The various budget plans Republicans produced in the run-up to the 2012 election all exempted Americans over age 55 from any changes to either Social Security or Medicare.
So Republicans like Hogan have become defenders of the elderly at the expense of other generations. Indeed, Hogan’s proposal is essentially a direct transfer from non-retired people who will get fewer services but still pay the same taxes to the elderly who would pay significantly less tax in Hogan’s imagined Maryland. Not a great deal for most Marylanders.
There is unquestionably an opening for a candidate to argue that Marylanders are too highly taxed and that regulation prone Democrats have stifled economic growth that is vital to employment and our State’s long-term success. But Hogan thus far has yet to make an argument in a remotely realistic or coherent way that suggests a conservative vision or way forward.