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March 14, 2011

Mathematical Fact: You Can't Tax The Rich Enough To Pay Down the Deficit

The Republicans need to read every word of this and memorize every single figure, and then memorize additional figures that illustrate the problem, and repeat them endlessly on every Sunday talk show they appear on and every speech they make.

I keep saying this: There simply are not enough rich such that taxing them at even high rates can do more than dent the enormous deficits.

See, the Democrats only remain competitive, and are able to not be ridden out of town on a rail when defending grants for Cowboy Poetry, because the woefully-uninformed public thinks there's always some easy method of fixing things.

They think if we just cut the pittance of what we spend on foreign aid we'll balance the budget. They don't think we need to reform entitlements; just cutting the $20 billion (or whatever) we spend on foreign aid should do the trick, they figure.

But more than that, they think if we're ever in a jam we can just tap the rich for more money.

I do not understand why the Republicans allow the Democrats to claim this. Even when they're not claiming it explicitly, they're claiming it implicitly -- Obama keeps selling his return-to-Clinton-tax-rates on the rich as the extent of his budget plan. The implication is if we just do this, we'll be solvent.

No. No no no no no. A thousand times no. As Kevin D. Williamson explains, even outright seizing the estates -- every last dollar -- of "the rich" will not get us anywhere near solvent.

The public is against making any real cuts to just about anything. (Except foreign aid.) That's understandable, I guess. But their reluctance to cut anything else is driven by the idea in the back of their heads that they would prefer that we just tax the rich a little more and cut foreign aid and everything will just be copacetic.

They have to be made to understand -- this cannot be repeated enough -- that the only way to sustain the current levels of spending (or even the much lower spending of the year 2001!) is to increase taxes on the middle class by 20% or 30% or so.

See, they don't understand the actual dimensions of this crisis. They think they can have their cake (same levels of spending) and eat it too (no tax hikes on them, but only on other people).

If they are made to understand the true situation, that the choice is not between lower spending and taxing the rich, but rather between lower spending and taxing the middle class, they will be a lot more inclined to vote for lower spending.

But as long as Obama and the Democrats and the media can hold out this phantasmal cake-and-eat-it-too option of taxing other people, they'll keep selecting that wonderful, but entirely imaginary, choice.

Every Republican should have this argument ready to be deployed at a moment's notice -- "Okay, let's concede we raise taxes on the rich to Clinton levels. That brings in $1 trillion over ten years. Now, what do we do about the addition $13 trillion in deficits your preferred level of spending requires?"

Republicans must, must, must make the public understand that the relevant question is not whether we tax the rich more. The important question -- the one they must ask again and again -- is who do you tax next after your piffle in tax increases fails to reduce the deficit by even 10%?

The Democrats want to just keep telling us who they'd tax first. Fine. They'll tax the rich first.

But who will they tax second, third, and fourth? Because their first round of increased taxation is only a bit more than a rounding error.


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posted by Ace at 01:14 PM

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