Can’t Balance the Budget Without Tax Increases

Ezra Klein’s take on the Conrad/Gregg deficit commission is that “It’s theoretically insulated from politics, and thus offers an opportunity for people of goodwill to come together and do the hard work of the country. And that will be fine right until the agreement is struck and released into the wilds of the political discussions, at which point it will die.”

I think that’s really too generous. Or, rather, I think that if we actually could get to the level Ezra is describing here, that would constitute enormous progress. A Republican Senator agreeing, even in the most general sense, that the long-term fiscal gap should be closed in part through higher taxes would be a huge step forward even if there were no agreement whatsoever on the specifics. Then you wouldn’t get people saying things like the problem with Barack Obama’s budget is that it “spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much” when a simple eyeball of CBO’s analysis makes it clear that his plan spends too much, borrows too much, and taxes too little:

500 cbo on revenue

There’s just no other analysis a person who cares about the long-term deficit could possibly offer. And yet the one who said taxes need to be lower is none other than Judd Gregg himself. And that’s the essence of the long-term deficit problem. People on the left think the long-run projected deficit is too high and should be made lower, but people on the right think taxes are too high and should be made lower. This belief is simply incompatible with a serious desire to reduce the long-run deficit.