One of the major problems plaguing politics in America today is that our two warring parties not only can’t agree on any solutions, they frequently can’t agree on what the problems are. So, rather than proposing competing solutions for various issues plaguing this great country of ours, one side will mock the other for even raising it as a concern – and that side will turn to increasingly extreme proposals as a result, making compromise even less likely.

We’ve seen this of late with the environmental debate, where, with the Green New Deal, liberals are at least offering ideas, albeit extreme ones that are unlikely to ever become policy. Even if one doesn’t believe that climate change is occurring or is a result of human activities, we all should be able to agree that it’s better to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels – the real question ought to be exactly how we go about doing that. That’s why it would be good to see the Republican Party coming up with its own plan, rather than simply attacking liberals for their admittedly unrealistic and overly ambitious proposals.

Likewise, it is becoming clearer that various forms of inequality in this country, such as racial and income inequality (which are inexorably linked in many ways), must be addressed. Increasingly, we’re seeing conservative thinkers and elected officials alike realize this, which has lead to some bipartisan progress in this area – most notably, the criminal justice reform law that easily passed Congress. Although it was just a first step, it was certainly in the right direction, and it was good to see conservatives and liberals in both parties coming together to actually make sensible policy for a change.

That should be just the opening salvo for Republicans on inequality, though, not their only idea. This is an area of policy where a number of long-standing conservative ideas could have a real impact, and unlike some areas, they could be adopted at either the state or the federal level. While liberals are proposing extreme, divisive solutions to the issue that seem more designed to gin up their base than bring together any sort of bipartisan consensus, conservatives have the chance to offer real solutions that could appeal to a wide swath of Americans in both parties.

One of the major ways to address income inequality in this country would be to simplify the tax code. Right now, American tax laws are tilted in favor of the wealthy, with a byzantine system of special breaks and loopholes that ordinary people find difficult to navigate. It’s an idea that has animated the conservative base for decades, whether in the form of a flat tax or more esoteric proposals like Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 scheme. While those plans aren’t going anywhere soon, the general concept of simplifying the tax code and eliminating many of the loopholes could have broad bipartisan appeal – among the electorate, anyway, if not in Washington.

Politicians have run on the idea of simplifying taxes forever, so voters would be forgiven if they fail to believe such promises. However, those candidates generally either have plans that are so grandiose and unrealistic as to be irrelevant or so vague as to be meaningless.

A big part of the reason for that is that most politicians are afraid to be honest about which tax breaks they’d eliminate, because they know it would offend potential donors. Still, if we’re to have an honest conversation about income inequality, an honest conversations about taxes is a necessary part of it.

Another important part of the conversation about inequality in America ought to be about our education system. The current public education system is failing our students at all levels, often trapping them in underperforming schools. Charter schools and magnet schools have helped change the equation slightly, but so could expanding school choice, which not only could allow students to escape bad schools in poorly run districts but also could increase the racial diversity in many schools. It’s no instant cure, but over the long term school choice could do a great deal to reduce inequities in public education.

Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to talk about income inequality. If they’re willing to discuss the issue and offer specific, bold proposals, it could become a winning issue for them rather than a crux that serves as an excuse for socialism. Ignoring the problem is not a winning strategy, though, either politically or as policy. That serves only to ensure that more extreme liberal proposals eventually get adopted.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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