The number four reason real deficit reduction is hard is that nobody likes tax increases. The number three reason real deficit reduction is hard is that nobody likes Medicare cuts. The number two reason is that people really dislike doing both simultaneously. But the number one reason real deficit reduction is hard is that if politicians do take a gutsy stand in favor of deficit reduction via tax hikes and Medicare cuts, none of the deficit scolds in the press will give them any credit. Instead you get things like this Dana Milbank column:
Domenici, who left the Senate last year after 36 years, appealed to his former Republican colleagues on Monday to drop their resistance to a commission that would look at tax increases as well as spending cuts. “You can’t go here saying we’re just going to change taxes and grow out of it. It won’t work,” the 77-year-old New Mexican said. “You’ve got to put taxes on the table. . . . I’m sorry that some Republicans think otherwise.”
Rivlin appealed to the liberals to drop their reflexive resistance to a commission that would reduce spending. “Cutting spending, especially entitlement benefits that people have counted on, will cause real pain, but it’s nothing [compared] to what would happen if we pretend that we can go on this trajectory,” she said.
They’re right, of course, but such appeals to reason aren’t likely to hold sway in a Senate governed by the passions of right and left. No new taxes! Save Social Security! Hands off Medicare!
You would never get a hint — not even a tiny little hint — from Milbank’s article that the main subject of political debate in the United States over the past six months has been a legislative proposal, health care reform, that would reduce the deficit and that includes a mix of, among other things, tax increases and measures designed to slow the growth of Medicare. Every single Senate Democrat voted for the measure, and every single Senate Republican voted against it. And yet in Milbankland, both sides are equally irresponsible. But why on earth would anyone ever take a politically risky vote to reduce the deficit if they can’t even get people to acknowledge that it happened.