Home Budget, Economy Eugene Robinson is an absolute must read

Eugene Robinson is an absolute must read


In his Friday column titled A little more revenue could go a long way.   Perhaps you can get a sense of where he is going from the very beginning:  

Do progressives care about reducing the national debt? Of course they do, no matter what the White House might believe.

While acknowledging all of the legitimate worries about the financial direction of this country, ultimately Robinson is coming down on the side of the approach proposed by the Progressive Caucus.  As he notes about confronting the problems we face,

The way to avoid this dystopian future is to bring spending and revenue more into balance. Yes, there will be some pain and sacrifice. But it is not necessary – nor is it wise – to heap a disproportionate share of the burden onto the backs of the poor, the elderly and the battered middle class.

What is the alternative? Well, we could begin by recognizing that while spending is too great, in historical terms, revenue is far too meager. We ought to be taxing and spending at roughly 20 percent of GDP, which means that a sensible, equitable, long-term program of debt reduction ought to include spending cuts and revenue increases in roughly equal measure.

There is much more, and I am pretty much at the limit of fair use already.  

You should read, and pass on, his column.

But please keep reading.

The reality is that the only way of getting a vote through the House on debt ceiling will require a minimum of 100 Democratic votes.  That is because those either in the Tea Party Caucus on the Republican side, or afraid of them, are prepared to vote against ANY raising of the debt ceiling, whether or not they get a lot of stuff they say they want.

And Republicans as a whole really want there to be Democratic votes if Medicare is being cut, because they were getting pummeled last month over the Ryan budget which cut Medicare.  They want that issue off the table.

What Robinson does is runs the numbers in a way that makes it pretty clear.

For example, letting the Bush era tax cuts for those with taxable income over 250,000 expire would gain $700 billion over a decade, and combine that with eliminating some of the tax breaks currently given the wealthy –  such as allowing carried interest to be taxed at a capital gains rate of 15%, getting rid of the writeoff on corporate jets that has been recently discussed “and soon you’re in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars.”

He is also suggesting that we consider lifting the cap on income on which Social Security taxes are assessed.

Here let me make a small digression.  I had a conversation with a member of House Financial Services this evening in which I raised the possibility that rather than means testing social security payments, we consider adjusting them by local cost of living, as we do with federal pay.  I was informed that some members of the House had tried to get this issue on the table within the past two years, but were shot down.

Robinson says that BEFORE we begin to look at medical expenditures –  which really do need to be brought under control – we first look at defense.  Let me quote him again:  

If we could trim the Pentagon’s spending by 15 percent – I know I’m dreaming, but humor me – we’d save another $1 trillion over 10 years.

Here’s a key point.  Republicans were saying that the Dems didn’t have a plan.  That ignored the People’s Budget, and the various other suggestions that have come from the Congressional Progressive Caucus over the past weeks.  

Robinson is the winner of the Pulitzer.  Besides his syndicated Post column, he has an additional megaphone in his appearances on MS-NBC.   I would not be at all surprised to find out he had been on that network tonight talking about some of this.

His voice is legitimizing the approach of the Congressional Progressives.  In fact, were you to look at the opinion page at the Washington Post website, the teaser for his column looks like this:

Do the deficit math

The progressive plan is the right plan.

Robinson goes quite a long way in this column.  In his penultimate paragraph he takes on American Exceptionalism in our handling of health care, noting that other nations are able to provide health care through private companies through single payer health systems!!!  He asks bluntly, But what’s the point of being exceptional in areas where we’ve clearly fallen behind?

Robinson began by arguing for the Progressive case.  Remember those opening two sentences with which I began?

I am going to repeat them, because they provide the front-end of the framing of the piece.

And then I will conclude as does Robinson, with the parallel two sentences at the end of his powerful piece.

Remember, the beginning, and then the end:

Do progressives care about reducing the national debt? Of course they do, no matter what the White House might believe.

There is, indeed, a way to eliminate these strangling deficits with fairness and an eye toward a brighter future. It just happens to be the progressive way.

Let’s here it for Progressives and the progressive way.  Thank you Eugene Robinson!


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