I don't want to – and haven't dismissed – the real flaws in Paul Ryan's proposal for cutting the debt. In fact, I agree with readers who want much more tax revenue in the plan, and oppose any more tax cuts in the current fiscal climate and find the gutting of all discretionary spending the dumbest form of budget balancing. But here's the thing: I've already heard more proposals from readers to tackle this problem in the last couple of days than I have in ages. Give Ryan credit for opening that debate. Here's a hypothetical liberal alternative:
- Raise spending slightly. You know, single-payer healthcare, high-speed rail, more education funding, and LOTS of green energy investment.
- Raise taxes on those making over $100,000 to 40%. Over 250,000 to 50%. Over $1,000,000 to 60%. Think that's crazy? Go look at income tax rates in this country from 1950 through 1980. We lived. And we did so at a time with far less government spending. Corporations? Let's start with making GE pay its fair share, and we'll go from there.
Both will reduce the deficit (over the very long haul). But guess which America I would want to live in?
The one with rampant poverty, no competitiveness in the global economy, hopelessly addicted to oil we can't afford, and the highest Gini coefficient on the planet? Or the one with a strong middle class, an answer to our long-term energy needs, real healthcare for all citizens, and rising worker competitiveness due to a better educated populace?
I'm not advocating the hypothetical mirror plan I just devised. But if you are so concerned about deficit control that you are willing to endorse the Ryan plan, despite it being blatantly and ruthlessly built on the backs of the poor, then will you really argue with my plan, built on the backs of the wealthy?
Go ahead, I dare ya.
If the math adds up, I think that proposal would be extremely healthy for the public discourse. What one hopes the Ryan plan might do is generate a debate that actually talks of the necessity of drastic tax hikes or drastic spending cuts. I want the Dems to contribute to this debate by articulating and defending the massive tax hikes they'd prefer with the same candor that Ryan has with entitlements.
The key thing is that we're finally having a real conversation based on the real but nasty choices we have to make sooner rather than later. No more fictions that we can just cut pork or foreign aid and be fine. No more nonsense from the right that no taxes can ever be raised; no more claptrap on the left that we do not face a crippling problem, and that middle class entitlements are sacrosanct. I want some sort of compromise that retains fiscal responsibility. For that to happen one side has to first own their solution. Ryan has now done that – for good or ill.
When will the Democrats?
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty.)