There has been a lot of comment about the fact that, at the last debate, none of the Republican presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they would take a deficit reduction deal that was 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increases. I think that the best, the very best, budget deal that conservatives can get through our political process is some favorable combination of the Simpson-Bowles Plan on taxes and discretionary spending and the Rivlin-Domenici Plan on health care policy. This will mean, even in a transformed entitlement system, that we will be paying more for Medicare than is budgeted in the revenue neutral Ryan Path to Prosperity. That means the government will need more money. That can be gotten with a tax code that is more pro-growth than the one we have.
There is a strong case to be made that conservatives should emphasize that entitlement reform and public sector consolidation should be looked at before tax increases, but holding out for not even one more penny of tax money is a good way to make sure that the budget ends up looking more like how Nancy Pelosi wants it than how Paul Ryan wants it. That doesn't mean I want the Republican presidential candidates to come out for tax increases, but there is something unreal about our discussions of crafting a sustainable budget. It is of course even worse with President Obama, who has not come close to proposing a plan that would produce a sustainable budget.. There might even be some upside to leveling with the public.