"Reform conservatism" won't end the welfare state, it'll reinvent it

Instead, Stein proposes upping middle-income families’ annual tax relief from the current $1,600 to $9,000 per child to offset the perverse incentives of the entitlement state against having children.

This may sound reasonable on its face. But it is a giant exercise in cost shifting that does nothing to actually scale back the welfare state. In fact, it deliberately leaves the welfare state intact so as to coopt it for conservative ends. “We should move away from arguing about how much we should spend for the liberal welfare state to arguing about how to replace it with a conservative approach to government,” Levin explains.

And indeed, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a darling of reformicons, has worked up a bold plan to rejigger the tax code with an eye toward rewarding family formation. He has also proposed the Working Family Flexibility Act, which would let private employers offer employees a choice in taking overtime compensation or time off, something that they can’t do under current law. That’s fair. However, it will also require that this option be included in private sector collective bargaining agreements. Others have proposed tax credits for stay-at-home moms and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit from the poor to middle-income families.

Even liberals could not have imagined going this far.