Douthat defends the lukewarm reception that Simpson-Bowles has received from the right:

[M]y back-of-the-envelope calculations, federal revenue has hovered around 18.3 percent of G.D.P. since 1980, breaking 20 percent only during the halcyon days of the dot-com boom. Under Simpson-Bowles, it would stick at 21 percent, a solid 10-15 percent boost over how the American government taxed its citizens in the Reagan and Clinton eras. And that’s just looking at government revenue as a share of the economy’s overall size. As an absolute number of dollars, obviously, a shift from 18 percent to 21 percent in a (hopefully) growing economy would increase federal revenues by leaps and bounds over today’s $2 trillion-plus size tax base.

Given these realities, I think it’s entirely appropriate that small-government conservatives have reacted relatively favorably but not ecstatically, since there isn’t anything here for partisans of a smaller federal leviathan to get ecstatic about. And by the same token (and to reiterate the point I make in today’s column), the fact that so many Democrats look at Simpson-Bowles’s vision of a future where the government takes in substantially more revenue than it does today and see a dreadful sell-out to the right tells you something important, and depressing, about liberal intransigence where the future trajectory of federal spending is considered.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to