Here’s the thing you should keep in mind about the long-term deficit. Under current law, the Bush tax cuts will expire. They will expire unless a majority of House members and 60 senators and the president of the United States agree to extend them. Consequently, either 41 Democratic senators or else President Obama plus 34 Democratic senators or else President Obama plus 146 Democratic House members can ensure a large increase in federal revenue. There is absolutely no need to get even a single Republican to assent to this plan.
Absolutely everything you’ve heard over the past year or month or week about various “bargains” or deals flows from the fact that Democrats have taken this idea off the table. Instead, President Obama is trying to obtain a bipartisan agreement in which Democrats agree to make taxes lower than current law specifies in exchange for Republicans agreeing to make taxes higher than they are this year. That is to say that left-wing revenue-lovers will be giving up a policy concession — tax revenue — in exchange for Republicans conceding a political point. This creates a crippling bargaining weakness for the Democrats. The Republican negotiating objective is low taxes, but the Democratic negotiating objective is bipartisan agreement. An underlying issue here is something that drives me nuts and that I think progressives need to think much harder about — the toxic impact of the Democrats rallying in 2008 around the cry of absolutely no tax increases of any kind for the non-rich. Pushing for a more progressive tax code is great, but pushing for rich-people-only tax increases has proven to be a good applause line in speeches that’s made actual governance incredibly difficult.
In other words, people should listen to Michael Bloomberg on taxes even while deploring his views on busting up protests.