Mike Lee: Help families more, quote Reagan less

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W. James Antle III Managing Editor
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Ronald Reagan isn’t walking through that door.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee told an audience at the Heritage Foundation that by November 2016, Reagan’s election will be as distant a memory as D-Day was in 1980.

But if conservatives want to win one for the Gipper, he suggested Tuesday, they need to apply their principles to current problems.

Lee’s “What’s Next for Conservatism?” address came weeks after a bruising Obamacare fight, culminating in a 16-day government shutdown. The senator defended his efforts to defund Obamacare.

“I am proud of my friend Ted Cruz and the dozens of others — including Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans — who fought Obamacare, continue to fight it and will not stop fighting it,” Lee said.

But Lee argued that fighting wasn’t enough. He proceeded to outline an agenda he said would make raising a family, accessing health care and going to college all more affordable — mostly by getting government out of the way.

“Progressives have become the party of Wall Street, K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue,” Lee said. “We must become the party of Main Street, everywhere.”

Lee said conservatives should shun corporate welfare and tax breaks for big business in favor of tax credits for children and tax cuts for middle-class families.

“Having a baby is like buying six houses all at once,” Lee quoted the conservative demographics writer Jonathan Last as saying. “Except that you can’t (legally) sell them — and after 13 years, they’ll tell you they hate you.”

He added that according to Last’s research, it costs parents $1.1 million to raise a single child. “Democrats say the solution is more programs to give parents more of other people’s money,” Lee continued. “I say we let middle-class parents keep more of their own money!”

The senator went on to call for cutting the federal gasoline tax from 18.4 cents a gallon to 3.7 cents, shifting most transportation funds back to the states so they can plan their own road-building and mass transit projects. He would also change federal labor law to allow for more flex time to improve work-life balance.

Lee proposed loosening federal control of college accreditation, allowing states, businesses, churches and charities to set up their own systems to compete with traditional “brick-and-ivy” universities. Lee said the new rules could let people complete degrees by sampling online courses, traditional college classes and apprenticeships a la carte.

And he still wants to bulldoze Obamacare — along with the high-cost health care system it tried to replace. “The day will come when Republicans need a health-care plan,” Lee said. “Today we need ten of them.”

The Washington Post reported last week that some Utah businessmen were considering a primary challenge to Lee. Lee was elected to the Senate in 2010 after unseating three-term incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennett.

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