Bob Packwood, former Senator from my former home state, had an editorial in the NY Times Sunday. More famous, at the end of his career, for his (mild, by modern standards) sex scandal than for being Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and despite his Republicanism and his indirect role in the failure of my dad's nomination to the federal bench, I found the piece much in line with my thoughts:
"Some people might assume that we could afford the maximum amount of government largess and still avoid pain for most taxpayers by simply collecting more taxes from the “rich.” Not a chance. Let’s assume, based on historical patterns and President Obama’s suggested spending, that at some point, the spending of all governments in the United States, federal and local, could add up to 40 percent of G.D.P. Mr. Obama proposes to increase the tax rate on income over $250,000 to 39.6 percent. The billions of dollars a year raised by the higher rate won’t begin to cover the trillion or so a year in increased government spending. Nor would current state and local taxes support their share of that spending. Therefore taxes would have to be raised on Americans making less than $250,000...Although he takes no stand on the dichotomy he raises, I'll assume that's where we part company. I'm guessing he'd opt for the less spending option. I've said here, and to anyone who'd listen, that I think the tax-cuts in Obama's budget are ill-advised. Maybe, in these times, they're justifiable in the short run, although the economists I trust say tax cuts are less stimulative than direct government spending. But this amount of imbalance isn't sustainable, as everyone agrees.
....we simply cannot raise enough money in taxes from the rich to pay for the programs the president wants.
So we basically have two options: raise taxes on the middle class, or demand that federal, state and local governments spend less."
I don't have a problem with the plan to return taxes on the wealthy to the levels they were when the economy was soaring; they'll still be way less than under Republican presidents previous to Clinton. But if we're going to provide health care for all and make college more affordable -- things which, in the long run, will help our country prosper -- the costs are going to have to be spread to more than those making two-fifty kay.
And let's not forget: if taxes go up to pay for those things, family expenses will go down by a similar, if not greater, amount (in fact, that's a part of the debate that rarely gets coverage: if we have a "public" health plan, the money that currently goes from businesses and individuals in the form of premiums will go there instead. Right?) It gets back to that idea of priorities, and what really makes for happiness and security. Senator Packwood (I didn't realize he was still alive!) properly raises the question, and so far President Obama is dancing around the answer.