Finding the taxes to pay for Obama’s budget

My commenter The Intellectual Redneck has pointed out another Wall Street Journal article that makes the point that even 100% taxes on high-income earners won’t pay for the Obama budget. As I said in a comment, I’m not perfectly happy with the Obama budget. I like the numbers to add up. But I’m more than happy with the general trade-offs of the budget.

That said, I want to make a couple of quick points about taxes and the Obama budget plans.

First, we do have to come up with a way to close the budget gap. I don’t think those kind of deficits are sustainable even in the medium-term, let along the long-term. Certainly I think there are spending cuts we could make (less global military hegemony and fewer ag subsidies, to name a couple). I also think we could add in consumption (sales) taxes at the federal level. Consumption taxes get dinged by liberals because they’re regressive, but it could exclude food and other necessary items. That way we’d get disincentives on buying just lots of crap, especially lots of expensive crap bought by the wealthy.

Second, this passage by Clive Crook reminded me of something I’ve thought of before:

In this “new era of responsibility”, as the budget document is called, it would have been better for Obama to signal that huge and desirable initiatives like universal health care will impose at least some costs on all Americans. It is literally impossible to make the rich pay for everything, and telling 95% of voters that they can have all these things at no cost is not good leadership. It has even less to do with shared responsibility.

I do think that it’s important for everyone – no matter the income – to pay something in the way of taxes for the services they receive from government – even if it’s a nominal buck. Certainly we are all citizens with equal political worth. But I think there is also something to being able to say that you paid your taxes – that you’re a citizen in that regard, too. Maybe this is a bit of my public radio background coming out here. During our pledge drives, we asked people to offer even five or ten bucks, just so they could have that sense of ownership of the station. I think that can apply to government, too.

Now, of course, I’d like to see this as part of a plan to broadly increase wages and compensation across the income spectrum, but that’s a different post.

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