Bruce Bartlett, noted tax-cut advocate and columnist for (among others) the Washington Times and National Review, sent me an email this morning offering this explanation for why he is in favor of at least talking about increasing taxes:
I could do nothing but write about why spending should be cut for the rest of my life and at the end of it spending won’t be one penny less. But when the inevitable fiscal correction begins, I think I might be able to influence the way taxes are going to be raised. Therefore, that is where I have channeled my energy. At the end of the day, my [libertarian] friends are not going to have the choice of cutting spending or raising taxes, as they imagine. Rather, their only choice will be raising taxes in ways that will be very debilitating to growth or raising taxes in ways that will minimize their economic burden.
Though I’m sure that I disagree with Bartlett about many things, on this I agree with him. This country seems to have reached an effective limit on spending cuts, despite the fervent wishes of Alan Greenspan. Therefore, the only realistic way left to reduce the budget deficit is to raise taxes. The sooner policy-makers face this reality, the better.