The latest discussion which will never occur: Every Wednesday, Eduardo Porter does his “Economic Scene” column in the New York Times.
Often, he strays off the reservation. This is one of those days.
In today’s column, Porter engages in heretical musing about the idea of raising everyone's taxes.
Such musings are almost never offered. They offend the spirit of Serious culture. But early on, Porter says this:
PORTER (1/23/13): To make ends meet, both parties agree, spending must be drastically cut. Under the White House budget proposal, discretionary spending on everything except the military is projected to shrink to its smallest share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration by the beginning of the next decade. Though he has resisted Republican demands to slash entitlements, President Obama remains willing to look for further savings from Medicare.We tend to agree with that judgment. But of one thing you can feel quite certain—Porter’s column will generate no such discussion. The discussion he proposes isn’t going to happen!
This is not, however, the only option we have. There is an alternative: raising more money from all taxpayers, including the middle class.
Nobody wants to talk about this. Republicans don’t want to raise taxes at all. “The tax issue is finished, over, completed,” declared the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. President Obama does want to raise more money, but only narrowly. His proposals for tax reform are aimed carefully at high-income taxpayers and corporations.
Yet Americans would benefit from a discussion of this possibility...
Is there a case to be made for “raising everyone's taxes?” Porter is making a generally “progressive” suggestion; he's suggesting that the U.S. might want to be more like Europe. But we liberals and progressives don’t try very hard to drive such heretical discussions. We like to talk about social issues. We fail at everything else.
Would Americans be better off if we were more like Europe? You can read Porter making his case. But you won’t see it anywhere else.
By the way: In all the excitement about Obama’s “progressive” Inaugural Address, are we the only ones clinging to a faint suspicion—the suspicion that the base is being appeased with a lot of social issues, while Obama may still be planning to cut benefits in one of the major social insurance programs?
We liked the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir too—and this faint suspicion may turn out to be pure paranoia. But we liberals tend to be easy when it comes to matters like this.
We’ll offer one complaint about Porter’s budget-based piece. We still want someone to tell us where all that health care money is going—the heath care money which helps create the need for higher taxes.
As Dean Baker constantly notes, the federal government would be running surpluses if our per capita spending on health care matched that of other developed nations. (To use Baker's fiendish Health Care Budget Deficit Calculator, go ahead: Just click here.)
In theory, all those budget problems would fly if someone discovered where all that extra money is going. If we could recover that extra money, there might not even be a need for Porter's higher taxes.
But we liberals never ask about that. The truth is, we aren’t especially bright about such matters, and we aren’t especially disciplined. As long as you give us a choir from Brooklyn—a choir we liked!—we feel fairly sure that we’ve won.
“Americans would benefit from a discussion of this possibility,” Porter writes of his suggestion about higher taxes. In principle, we think he's right.
Even more, we’d like to see that discussion about the apparent looting of health care. But Baker can yap as long as he wants.
That discussion will never occur.