For my write-up today on Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, I'll highlight areas in which Rick Santorum worked with Democrats, in terms of what Santorum discussed in my latest reading of his book.
On pages 151-152, Santorum talks about his work with Senator Joseph
Lieberman to create Individual Development Accounts for the low-income.
(But I do not know if Lieberman was still a Democrat at the time that
he worked with Santorum on this.) According to this plan, organizations
would assist low-income clients in setting up accounts, train the
clients on how to manage and grow them, and "match individual
contributions to these accounts dollar-to-dollar up to $500 a year."
These accounts can be used for purchasing a home, paying for education,
or starting a business, and Santorum says that the outcome will be "new
businesses, new jobs, increased earnings, higher tax receipts, and
reduced welfare expenditures."
What would the federal government
and state governments do in terms of these accounts? First of all, the
interest accruing on these accounts would be tax-free. Second, there
would be tax-credits for private institutions that create IDAs. And
third, governments would contribute dollars. Santorum states that
states are setting up IDA programs with money from the Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families program.
2. Okay, you're saying that
Lieberman is fairly conservative, and so it's not a wonder that
Santorum would work with him. But, on pages 152-153, Santorum talks
about kicking around an idea with Senator Bob Kerrey and working with
Senator Jon Corzine on a plan. This plan would create a tax-free (until
the money is withdrawn) savings account for every child born in the
United States. The federal government would contribute $500, and kids
in homes that make below the median income could get additional money up
to $500. Private interests can contribute to the accounts, and
lower-income children would "be eligible to receive a dollar-for-dollar
match on the first $500 contributed to their accounts each year." Kids
can withdraw the money once they turn 18, but they must leave $500 in
the account for education, purchasing a home, or retirement.
talked yesterday about Santorum's controversial support for the
Nehemiah Project, which helps the low-income to buy a house. With Diane
Feinstein, Santorum introduced a bill that would consider the Nehemiah
Project (and similar projects) a charitable activity under the IRS
code. Santorum states on page 162 that "The bill will ensure that
legitimate nonprofit assistance programs are protected while also
providing some congressionally directed oversight to prevent abuses."
On page 176, Santorum says that he worked with Republicans and former
President Bill Clinton on incentivizing investment in low-income areas.
Santorum states that the renewal communities "provide a variety of tax
incentives, including a zero capital-gains rate for investments in these
communities, while requiring those local communities and governments
that wish to participate to shed unnecessary regulatory burdens."
5. On page 179, Santorum discusses something that he and Carol Mosley
Braun added to the 1996 welfare-reform law. It enabled people from poor
areas to get to the suburbs to work, since low-skill jobs have migrated
to the suburbs, and there are many among the urban poor who do not have
cars. Unfortunately, many "mass-transit commuter routes" did not go
out to the suburbs. Consequently, Santorum and Braun supported "Federal
reverse-commuting dollars [helping to] subsidize routes from
reclamation areas to suburban job centers."
light of the us vs. them tone that Santorum often uses in the book when
talking about liberals and Democrats, I find his discussions about his
bi-partisan work to be refreshing. At the same time, while I appreciate
his goal of providing the low-income with a means to increase in
wealth, I question whether it's prudent to replace the welfare system
(or parts of the welfare system) with his ideas. I wonder if his ideas
could help the poor keep up with costs, the way that (say) food stamps
and low-income federal housing do.