One way of making a point I’ve been trying to make for a while is that something along the lines of Paul Ryan’s budget is eventually going to be made inevitable if progressives stay stuck on Barack Obama’s pledge to not raise any tax revenue from any non-rich people. The problem with this isn’t that there’s no more capacity to tax the rich, it’s that a lot of the best ways to tax the rich do require some taxation of the non-rich as well.
For a quick look at this, just take a gander at the distributive impact of the “middle class” Bush tax cuts that Obama is committed to extending:
Or look at our hideously regressive housing subsidies:
Rescinding either of those would be an economically efficient way of sticking it to the rich, but it’s very difficult to make these measure economically efficient while completely sheltering the middle class from the impact. And that’s even before you get into legislative trickier like last winter’s stunt where congressional Republicans held the “middle class” tax cuts hostage to bonus rich people only tax cuts. Ultimately the only way to raise revenue is to be able to make the case that public services are worth paying money for. You can structure revenue measures to be distributively progressive, but you can’t categorically promise that 100 percent of the burden will fall on the rich.