Rick Santorum’s “Economic Freedom Agenda” fails the smell test.

Will Wilkinson has an excellent post on Rick Santorum’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Suffice it to say, Santorum has a curious view of what constitutes economic freedom in his “Economic Freedom Agenda” (emphasis added):

• Unleash America’s energy. I’ll approve the Keystone Pipeline for jobs and energy security, and sign an order on day one unleashing America’s domestic energy production, allowing states to choose where they want to explore for oil and natural gas and to set their own regulations for hydrofracking.

• A pro-growth, pro-family tax policy. I’ll submit to Congress comprehensive tax policies to strengthen opportunity in our country, with only two income tax rates of 10% and 28%. To help families, I’ll triple the personal deduction for children and eliminate the marriage tax penalty.

• Reform entitlements. I’ll cut means-tested entitlement programs by 10% across the board, freeze them for four years, and block grant them to states—as I did as the author of welfare reform in 1996. I’ll reform Medicare and Social Security so they are fiscally sustainable for seniors and young people.

As to the first point, don’t states already have their own permitting and regulatory process for energy industries? As to the other points – Wilkinson:

Mr Santorum promises to “triple the personal deduction for children and eliminate the marriage tax penalty”. What does any of this have to do with economic freedom? If paying people to have children makes them more free, why don’t the childless deserve equal freedom? Because freedom is the freedom to do God’s will and God wants us to have big families? The “pro-family” elements of Mr Santorum’s plan are transparent attempts at social engineering through fiscal policy.

Mr Santorum says he’ll “cut means-tested entitlement programs by 10% across the board, freeze them for four years, and block grant them to states—as I did as the author of welfare reform in 1996.” This is unintelligible. If subsidising families through the tax code somehow adds to their freedom, then reducing subsidies to the relatively poor—to those who qualify for means-tested benefits—must logically decrease theirs. This is simply upside down. There is a compelling case that individuals require a certain material minimum to ensure that their economic liberties have real worth. If Mr Santorum’s cuts would leave Americans below that threshold, they would amount to an assault on the economic freedom of the disadvantaged.

Emphasis added, of course. The rest of Wilkinson’s piece is great, but these two paragraphs highlight what happens when a candidates policies can’t even pass the smell test of legitimacy judged against their own agenda’s objectives.

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