In their special report on tax politics, the American Prospect made a good point. Considering the current fiscal situation, Democrats are going to have to learn to advocate for higher taxes again. Yes, it sucks to be the grown-up after the Republicans have crayoned over the budget's walls and urinated on the fiscal sofa, but somebody has to do it if our revenues are to be brough in line with the sort of progressive role for government we envision (and that George Bush, through NCLB and the Medicare drug benefit, has helped actualize).
Generally speaking, we rhetorically approach this through soaking the rich. Most everything advocated by a Democratic candidate last year was supposed to be paid for through rolling back the tax cuts on the wealthy. Not even raising their taxes, just rolling back the decrease. That won't cut it. As someone in the blogosphere said (I forget who), you can't pay for everything through the estate tax, you can't fund all dreams on the backs of the rich.
And that, to some degree, has been the Democrats' problem. But it seems to me that the solution is realizing you can fund something through the estate tax, through rolling back the tax cuts, and through other targeted and non-targeted tax increases. Indeed, the Democrats are really in trouble when asking for broad-based, vague tax hikes. If you nail everyobdy and don't tell them what it's for, don't be surprised when folks would prefer not to pay. But dedicated revenue streams are another story. What if we reinstituted the estate tax and dedicated it to Social Security? What if we rolled back the tax cuts and put half the revenue towards the defict and half towards shoring up Medicare? What if we instituted a VAT to fund universal health care, or raised taxes on everyone by 2% (or some amount) to institute single-payer health care?
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