January 2, 2013

ROSS DOUTHAT: Cliff Deal Shows Obama’s Weakness, Not Strength: “If a newly re-elected Democratic president can’t muster the political will and capital required to do something as straightforward and relatively popular as raising taxes on the tiny fraction Americans making over $250,000 when those same taxes are scheduled to go up already, then how can Democrats ever expect to push taxes upward to levels that would make our existing public progams sustainable for the long run?”

They can’t, because those programs are unsustainable at any level of taxation. Something that can’t go on forever, won’t.

Plus: “There is a significant constituency among Congressional Democrats that was already uncomfortable with the $250,000 threshold and wanted to push it higher — all the way to a million dollars, if a certain influential New York Senator had his way — and the possibility that these Democrats might go wobbly in a post-cliff scenario gave the White House a reason (or an excuse) to concede ground that Obama had once promised to defend unstintingly. Nor is this tax-wary caucus likely to grow weaker with time: It exists because many Democratic lawmakers represent (and are funded by) a lot of affluent professionals in wealthy, high-cost-of-living states, and that relationship is only likely to loom larger if current demographic and political trends persist.”

That’s the problem with that whole war on the rich. Obama’s enemies are the small-business Kulaks, who vote Republican, but he can’t go after them without hurting the nobles who support Democrats financially.

I’d push 5% per year cuts in federal spending across the board — no “flexible freeze” BS — and do it each year until the deficit was under control. I think this would sell fairly well politically, too. Nobody believes that any federal department couldn’t cut costs 5% without impacting performance.