“There is some evidence that House Republicans are starting to get the message that their tax position is crumbling. On May 11, a senior Republican staffer told Atlantic reporter Derek Thompson that his party’s position on taxes is intellectually dishonest. ‘There are two worlds,’ the aide said. ‘One world is political and the sole objective is to maintain party message. The other world is real and in the real world fixing the deficit is a matter of national survival. When you get down to the real world decisions, it’s not about whether to raise taxes; it’s about the ratio of spending to revenue increases.’“
….Mr. Bowles had harsh words for fellow Democrats. He dismissed the idea that raising taxes alone might help erase the deficit, saying ‘raising taxes doesnt do a dern thing’ to address health care costs that are projected to be a big driver of future fiscal problems.
If theres anything that could be called a wonkish consensus on the left, its this: we should eliminate the Bush tax cuts in a couple of years when the economy has recovered, and we need to rein in the long-term growth of healthcare costs. Its true that taxes dont address healthcare costs, but its just sophistry on Bowles part to put it like that. Taxes do address the medium-term deficit, and thats important. Quite separately, PPACA makes a start on holding down healthcare costs and thus addressing the long-term deficit, and I hardly know anyone on the left who doesnt agree that more needs to be done.
…Jon Chait has more on this, including a more detailed takedown of Bowles own proposals for healthcare, which are almost laughably inadequate.
I think we make a mistake by talking about this as though the goal of Republicans is actually deficit reduction. Its not, the goal is a reduction in the size of government and once you understand that, its clear why Republicans will not support tax increases of any kind. Theyd rather cut taxes now (and argue its about jobs or long-run growth rather than ideology), and increase the deficit even more because they still believe the beast can be starved. Anything that increases the pressure to reduce spending will be embraced, anything such as a tax increase that might allow the government to grow larger will be opposed. Logic about the best way to close the deficit wont win this argument because it has little to do with the deficit itself.
Tyler Cowen writes a column that is both good and bad. It is good for what it says: it debunks fiscal illusions. It is bad for what it does not say, and for what it does not say it tends to deepen our political illusions. You see, for some reason Tyler Cowen does not mention the obvious solution at the ballot box to the very real fiscal illusion problems he writes about. If we simply stopped electing Republicans–if we simply elected presidents who would choose policies designed by the technocrats of the Clinton and Obama administrations and elected senators and representatives who voted for them–we would be absolutely fine.
“Our personal and national relationship to debt is indeed a moral issue. Leaving our children to pay the bills for excessive spending cannot be justified. But, if a budget really is a moral document, how we reduce the deficit is also a moral issue. Our budget should not be balanced on the backs of the poor. Cuts should not come from the services and programs that people rely on now more than ever. The reality is that we have a lot of wasteful spending in our federal budget, but most of it does not come from things that help the most vulnerable people in our society.”
“So, let’s recap. The medium-term deficit problem was created by Bush tax cuts and by an unfunded Bush-era expansion of Medicare. The long-term deficit problem is all about Medicare. Yet the only solution that Republicans can think of is reducing spending–but not Medicare spending. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise us; Mitch McConnell gave us this, after all:*”