Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Gee, Where'd All the Money Go?"

I get tired of all the theatrical hand-wringing on the right about “How is Obama going to pay for all of this?”

If Bush had not destroyed the structural surpluses that were originally projected for the last 8 years, the government would not be paying almost a half trillion dollars a year in interest on the (vastly expanded) national debt. I’m enough of a cynic to believe that was actually deliberate: utterly destroy the country’s fiscal standing, so that the next time a Democrat is elected, there is a smooth transition to theatrical hand-wringing and bleats that “Gee, we’re too broke to be able to afford to help all those people…”

But the thing is, as a matter of math it is actually fairly simple to pay for everything Obama wants and more, AND pay down the debt, if you make the income tax resemble what if was in the Eisenhower administration: the top marginal rate hovered between 91 and 94 percent, and there were more brackets.

Another thing I’ve heard proposed is a 13% asset tax on all assets over 10 million dollars. This would apparently pay off the entire national debt, more or less instantly. That would then free up tons of money to make our fellow citizens’, and our own, lives better through investments in things like job training, better schools, social workers and so on, to finally tackle in a comprehensive way the economic and social decay in our inner cities; upgrading and modernizing our inter-city train system to standards that obtain in the rest of the developed world (a project whose need will become more apparent in the coming world of ever-costlier oil); government-subsidized day care to ease the path of single mothers out of poverty; new incentives and even direct investment in green energy sources and a smart grid.

I think if you ask most Americans if they want those things, they’ll say “yes.” If you propose a much more progressive tax system to pay for it, they’ll be fine with that, too.

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