President Obama sent his jobs plan to Congress today, where the $447 billion package will be deconstructed, disassembled, and perhaps disposed of entirely before the end of the month. In the meantime, we'll get a debate about jobs, Social Security, and taxes.
If these debates sound familiar, it's only because we've been having them every week for the last two-and-a-half years. The White House believes that deficits created by lower taxes and higher spending are good for jobs and growth, and Republicans disagree. If you're reading this article, you've probably picked a side. I have. Republicans and Democrats worry that reducing payroll taxes will speed up the demise of Social Security. But if you see general revenues as one big bucket used to pay for various services, from penny production to pensions, then it's easier to see how we'll pay for Social Security. We'll could raise general revenues later when the economy is stronger and use it to fill any hole in Social Security.
That brings us to taxes. Conservatives like to say that we shouldn't raise taxes on anybody right now. The White House prefers to say that the rich can afford to pay "their fair share." Both sides can be right. Tying tax increases to benchmarks in the economic recovery (consecutive quarters of plus-three-percent growth; consecutive months of sub-seven-percent unemployment, etc) would elude the Republican complaint that we can't raise taxes today. Starting those tax increases at the top would help protect the poorest Americans who are suffering the highest unemployment.