The problem with trying to pass a $1.3 trillion universal health care plan, on top of raising the price of carbon emissions, on top of spending over a trillion dollars to stimulate the economy is that, as they say, a trillion here and a trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money. So let's talk about real money. Where're we gonna get some? Your paycheck. How're we gonna do it? Raise your taxes.
So I'm pleased to see the Economix blog is putting together a motley crew of economists and journalists who have said just that: Taxes are coming. With federal revenue less than 19% and federal spending surging over 20% with the bailouts, it stands to reason that even if health care reform miraculously turns deficit-neutral in a decade, we're going to need politicians to get serious about higher taxes -- and maybe not just for the rich.
Enter Economix. The blog's "Club Wagner" -- named after 19th century economist Adolf Wagner -- is a group of diverse journalists and economists who have publicly stated that taxes in the United States must rise, eventually. There is no consensus on an explicit time line for raising taxes, at least in this debut mission statement. Nor is there a specific breakdown of which taxes they would like to see increased.
Indeed, the group is somewhat all over the map. You've got Peter Orszag, Obama's budget director, alongside Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Sen. John McCain's former economic adviser, alongside a few middle-of-the-road senators who aren't exactly fighting over Club Wagner bumper stickers to paste to their minivans. Indeed the members who are in government -- Orszag, Sen. Judd Gregg (R) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D) -- are all pretty sketchy in their "support" of higher taxes. So it's a big tent, but the occupants are few and far from enthusiastic.
But it's a start. I would join the club. Would you?