The budget hawks are always demanding that we balance the budget by deep cuts in nonmilitary government spending both discretionary but also deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
They have shown by their frequent carping about how Obama is hurting the armed services that they don't want much in the way of cuts in military spending, though that was part of the deal struck last Summer.
Bartlett puts it about as simply and concisely as you could want:
"But there is another very good reason to raise taxes on the ultrawealthy: the government needs the revenue.
"Although conservatives routinely deny that tax cuts have anything to do with budget deficits, the slightest bit of common sense says otherwise. According to the Congressional Budget Office, federal revenues will consume just 16.3 percent of gross domestic product this year. The postwar average is about 18.5 percent.
"The reason they are so much lower is because the huge tax cuts of the George W. Bush administration were extended by President Obama in 2010, along with an additional cut in the payroll tax that replaced an earlier Obama tax cut called the Making Work Pay credit. Without all these tax cuts, revenues would be about 2 percent of gross domestic product higher, according to the C.B.O."
"Only in some fantasy world would it be possible to balance the budget without higher revenues. In the real world, it is impossible to balance the budget with revenues at 16.4 percent of G.D.P. Therefore, taxes will have to rise. The only question is who will pay more?"
"Everyone, I think, but the wealthy will have to pay a lot more, because they have a much greater capacity to do so than most Americans. If they don’t pay more, then the rest of us will have to bear a higher tax burden or suffer having programs like Medicare, which almost everyone will benefit from eventually, decimated."
"Republicans, however, are quite adamant that not only must the wealthy not pay any more in taxes – but, in fact, must have their taxes further reduced. Every Republican presidential candidate favors lower taxes on the wealthy. Mitt Romney, for example, has proposed cutting the top income tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent."
There are some very interesting points in here. The idea that we are losing 2 points in GDP due to the Bush tax cuts-and Obama's payroll tax cuts-is an eye opener as to what's at stake.
I like how he puts who will pay more-everyone, but especially the wealthy. As he points out it was the GOP that had written the law that says the Bush cuts were supposed to expire in 2011 and now they are the ones who are saying "over our dead body."
Yet, you have to admit that the Bush Administration was extremely clever the way they constructed the cuts. By giving just enough to the middle class and the poor they can now sit back and complain if anyone listens to what Bartlett says here, "You want to raise taxes of the American people. And in a recession. You don't just want to raise them on the rich but the middle class and poor. Well, we'll see how the American people feel about that."
For Bartlett does say that everyone needs to pay more. And he may not be wrong. Think about it-when we were all paying a little more during the Clinton years weren't we all doing a little better?
Of course I'm no deficit hawk. I don't think this should be a short term priority at all. I believe we should not even get into this until the economy comes back. When it does, a large part of the deficit will be gone anyway-that's what growth does, it returns revenue. So while Bartlett is right about needing revenue, a large part of that will come by the economy getting stronger. The deficit by that point will be a lot lower.
Still, he makes a very important point. The optics of it are tough as the Bushies led by Rove were very clever. But if expiring all the various cuts and breaks would add 2% of GDP growth, wouldn't that be worth doing ASAP?
The answer is probably. The trouble is that the GOP has the optics-"How can you raise taxes in a recession?" And even though its' true that raising taxes could actually do a lot to whip the recession do you think the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democrats will try to make that pitch?
So while Bartlett may be right-we all need to pay more, but the wealthy need to pay a lot more-what we'll more likely see is this:
With Democratic success we'll see some rise in the taxes on the wealthy, but likely nothing on anyone else. The GOP wins and we'll see an even more anemic and anorexic government by far. The GOP candidates, as Bartlett documents all have tax plans to greatly further reduce taxes on the rich. The Republican Administration in this case won't raise taxes on the rest of us but we won't get nearly what the rich will get.
And they'll make us pay in further deterioration of government nonmilitary expenditures and services. So that's likely to be the choice. Bartlett may be right but he's not running for office. He was in office once, of course, he was a policymaker. If only he were now.