Why Do Liberals Want to Raise Taxes on the Rich?

Blue Dog Democrats are peeling away from Pelosi on the Bush tax cuts. Moderate Democrats in the Senate have balked on raising rates on the rich. Liberals are mad.

But this raises the question: why do liberals want to raise taxes on the rich? There are only so many possible reasons.

1) To punish the rich, for being that way.

2) To raise money to pay for new projects.

3) To raise money to pay for existing projects. In other words, to close the deficit.

I have no sympathy for reason number one, partial sympathy for reason number two, and considerable agreement with reason number three.

But if the goal of higher taxes is to raise money and close the deficit, why are we even discussing a permanent extension of 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts (going to the bottom 98 percent of taxpayers) which could cost the Treasury north of $3 trillion in the next decade? There is only so much cost-cutting we can do on the spending side. Taxes will have to go up in the next few years, and not merely on the nation's millionaires.

The Senate is currently considering two bills before December. The Democratic bill from Sen. Baucus' office extends all rates for the bottom 98 percent of taxpayers forever. The Republican bill from Sen. McConnell's office extends all rates for all taxpayers forever.

So Rep. Dave Camp's offer to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years only is commendable (even if his committee page is duplicitous). As far as I can tell, Camp is the only major elected representative who is not debating between extending a $4 trillion tax cut forever versus 80 percent of a $4 trillion tax cut forever.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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