By Tax Hikes Alone

Jan 9 2013 @ 12:22pm

Matt Steinglass engages me:

Mr Sullivan writes that if Barack Obama "pretends that we can resolve this by revenues alone, he is part of the problem, not the solution." David Brooks echoes that point in an op-ed today, saying "there are no conceivable tax increases that can keep up" with rising Medicare spending. This sounds very hard-headed, but it's not really correct. America has one of the lowest tax burdens of any advanced country. We may not want to fix our debt problem solely by increasing revenues, but if we wanted to, we could.

He does the math:

[B]y gradually increasing our total tax burden by 7% of GDP through 2023, we could balance the budget; we might eventually have to raise it by perhaps 10% of GDP. That would leave us with a much higher tax burden than we have now, but it would still be only 34% of GDP, as high as Britain's is today. And that's assuming we don't change a penny of our wasteful spending habits on Medicare and defence.

I left Britain for a country with a less intrusive government. Douthat, meanwhile, sees no evidence that Democrats are prepared to carry out the tax hikes necessary to deal with the deficit:

The Republican Party is an unserious party in many ways, but it has leaders (from Paul Ryan to Tom Coburn) who understand that crucial point, and who have spent the last few years elaborating the kind of entitlement reforms that the conservative vision of government requires, and putting their fellow Republicans on the record in support of them. From Barack Obama on down, I don’t see the same thing happening on the Democratic side; instead, I see a party that’s still loath to acknowledge that its program requires sacrifice from anyone save the wealthy, and that just responded to a moment of maximum leverage by narrowing its definition of who constitutes the rich. If Democrats want to raise middle class taxes — and I mean really raise them, not just cut deals that nudge revenue upward a little here and there — they need to lay the political and policy groundwork for that kind of push, and they need to start relatively soon.