Tax the rich: How hard can it be?

Democrats should be clear: No debt ceiling budget deal without an agreement to raise revenues

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 22, 2011 4:28PM (EDT)

Tax Day has come and gone, but there's still some interesting arithmetic left to ponder:

  • A new study by two Princeton sociologists concludes that, contrary to alarmist predictions, higher taxes instituted on the wealthy in 2004 did not result in an exodus from the Garden State.
  • Congressman Paul Ryan gets booed and jeered by his own constituents at a town hall meeting when he claims "we do tax the top."
  • President Obama declares in a national televised speech on the deficit that "we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. We can't afford it. And I refuse to renew them again."
  • A New York Times editorial and a Bruce Bartlett column opine that the realities of deficit reduction will force Republicans to concede the necessity of some tax increases.

On the basis of these indicators, I think it is safe to say that there is a different tone in the air to the topic of taxes. This shouldn't be surprising. Time and again, polling indicates that the general public likes  government services and supports higher taxes on the wealthy.

And yet, at the same time, the official Republican stance is as intransigent as ever. On the next order of congressional business -- the debt ceiling -- there has been no give in the bargaining position: In exchange for preventing a catastrophic U.S. default, Republicans want total surrender on a deficit reduction deal from Democrats.

Isn't the answer here obvious? Obama should be clear. There must be no deal without agreement on a package that includes revenue increases. If Republicans want to hold hostages in exchange for protecting the wealthy from tax increases, let's make that absolutely clear.

The GOP has been playing hardball. When do Democrats respond in kind?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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