The plan they want is staring them in the face

The Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star ran an infuriating editorial this morning discussing the competing budget plans in Washington.

The short version: Rep. Paul Ryan offered a grown-up, realistic plan to deal with America’s debt; President Obama offered up more tax increases for the wealthy. What’s needed, the Free Lance-Star tells us, is a “both-and” scenario – meaning both tax increases and spending cuts.

So what’s infuriating? Well, perhaps the fact that a “both-and” scenario is exactly what Obama offered. Ryan and the Republicans are the ones who think the deficit can be tamed without addressing revenue – except to cut it further, of course.

Obama’s budget calls for $3 in spending reductions (including savings on interest) for every $1 in tax increases. Ryan’s plan calls for lowering the top tax rates with only vague promises of tax code reform to attempt to make that action revenue-neutral.

Interesting, too, is this statement from the Free Lance-Star about the need to be open to at least some tax increases: “But politically, to get the necessary modifications to the entitlement programs (and to achieve deficit reduction goals), taxes will have to go up.”

To the editorialists at the Free Lance-Star, the primary need for tax increases is political, to help make entitlement reform go down more smoothly. They only address the contribution to deficit reduction goals parenthetically – literally.

As I’ve noted before, despite all the anti-tax hysteria currently gripping Tea Party America, taxes are at their lowest in decades. As a percent of GDP, they haven’t been this low since the 1950s. Republicans can go on all they want about how we have a “spending problem, not a revenue problem,” but the fact is that at a time when demands on government are higher than ever – more Americans retiring or preparing for retirement, the nation fighting two (and a half) wars, facing a persistent terrorist threat, coming out of the deepest recession in a generation – far less revenue is coming in.

Obama offered a budget plan that makes serious cuts and brings in additional revenue – exactly what the Free Lance-Star says it wants. Don’t hold your breath waiting for him to get any credit.

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