06 December 2012

I do not think Kevin Drum and I live in the same universe

Mother Jones | Kevin Drum | Quote of the Day: Maybe Raising Tax Rates on the Rich Isn't Such a Bad Idea

Second, there's Coburn's point. If you want to have any chance at all of broadening the base and lowering rates in the future, you can't close loopholes now. You need to leave them there as bargaining chips. Tax reform will be more likely if rates are higher (making them easier to lower) and loopholes are all still intact (giving you plenty of stuff to close in return for lowering rates).
This seems more than a little bonkers.

Couldn't you apply this logic to any policy you want your opponents to cave in on? "Well, if you really want marijuana to be more legal, you should allow drug warriors to crack down on it more now, so you have room to negotiate in the future." "If you're serious about increasing the role of government in health care, you should back free market reforms now, which will preserve your bargaining chips for later." What?
There are two ways to come at this. First: which is simpler and easier, raising rates or closing loopholes?
By "easier" he means "more politically expedient." There's nothing wrong with that. I simply point it out because that is not what "simple" or "easy" mean to me.
I'd say raising rates is easier, and if it's done now it will make it harder to raise them again in the future. This means that if Democrats want to soak the rich again, they'll have to do it via closing loopholes, which is a harder lift.
Ah. Of course. Because in the annals of government, no one has ever managed to raise tax rates twice in a row. Tax rates never, ever ratchet up. It's practically impossible for a politician to double down on a policy. No one has ever followed up "Hey, let's take some money from those guys over there who I don't like" with "We need more money; Let's get it from those same guys again!"

I suppose this makes a certain kind of sense if you're assuming you live in a world in which you could not possibly simplify the tax code some now, and then do so again later. Well, "sense" is too generous, but it's somewhat consistent.
If you're a slave of Grover Norquist and hellbent on never raising revenue in any way at all, none of this matters. But if you're smart enough to pound sand, you know that raising revenue is inevitable eventually.
Obviously anyone who thinks spending is the problem is just plain dumb. Obviously.

(chart via Coyote Blog)


PS I think the key to understanding Drum world may be that he does not see the GOP's goal as having lower tax rates on a broader base than the US currently does. He seems to see the goal as passing a piece of tax reform legislation which legislators can claim lowers rates and broadens the base from whatever the then-current status quo is. Which tells me Drum has spent too long inside the Beltway and needs to go take a multi-year vacation somewhere on the other side of the Appalachians.

We're at A right now. The GOP's goal is to get to B. What Drum is suggesting is that somehow moving from A to C is the way to get there. The goal isn't just to move down to the right at some point. You'd have to be even more cynical than I am about congress to believe that's the only motivation. No, the goal is to get from A to B. And C is not on the way.

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