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Please Don't Do This

There isn't much that is more more crazy and self-destructive than the Republicans supporting tax cuts for high earners while at the same time demanding tax increases for those workers whose incomes cluster just below the median.  It is just as bad to advocate tax cuts for the high earners while publicly bemoaning the light tax liabilities of those whose earnings put them in the second quartile (and usually failing to mention that these workers pay the regressive Social Security payroll tax.)

Do you remember when making the Republicans look like the party of interest group politics for high earners used to be the job of the Democrats?   

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Discussions - 31 Comments

It's nothing I'd say too loudly, but hell yes, they should contribute, particularly if they draw benefits (and you know they do). We are in a perilous situation where only half the country pays and the other half becomes dependent (although, of course, some who pay also reap benefits).

What's your tax policy, Pete?

Doesn't every person who earns a paycheck pay some sort of federal tax? FICA or Social Security? The paystub taxes affect the middle income more than the very wealthy, right?

Redwald, they do "contribute" in the form of one regressive tax (Social Security - and that gets very complicated when we look at life expectancies at different lifetime earnings levels), one generally flat tax that becomes progressive at the highest rate (the Medicare tax) and the federal gas tax. This does not get into state and local taxes. A rhetoric where workers In the second quartile are collectively described as "dependent" is false - as most working people in the second quartile can tell you just by reading their check stub to you.

We are in a "perilous situation" in which politicians of both left and right peddle nonsense that happens to coincide with self-validating narratives favored by some fraction of the electorate, not (necessarily) because the second quartile pays too little taxes.

There are lots of ways to reform the tax code. One revenue neutral way to start would be this one:

http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/taxes-and-the-family

I don't think revenue neutrality would get it done (though the above reform would produce some growth effects.) A combination of tax cuts for high earners and income tax increases for workers in the second quartile would be political suicide.

I can think of a left/right compromise that would address your concerns about increasing the income tax liabilities of the second quartile, and making the contribution of the highest bracket a lower overall percentage of income tax revenues while also addressing some of the concerns of the left. It would involve repealing all the income tax cuts enacted since Clinton left office. I'm not for this approach, but then again it never occurred to me to make increasing the tax liabilities of those just on the other side of the median income a priority.

We are in a "perilous situation" in which politicians of both left and right peddle nonsense that happens to coincide with self-validating narratives favored by some fraction of the electorate

That's just it. Game Set Match.

I concur that advocating tax cuts for the affluent and tax increases for the poor is not a wise political move, but I agree with the sentiment that (if you want to rein in large government) all must contribute. It's not enough just to pay FICA. They need to contribute to the military and all the other functions of government. As it is, we have a very large segment of the people whose "narrative" favors soaking the rich and forever expanding the Federal Government. So long as they have no incentive to think otherwise, we will have this permanent headwind about taxation and the proper role of government.

I've always favored the flat tax, no excuses and no deductions, period. Given that even the poor have to pay it, it would need to be reasonable (say, 10%). I'm betting most of the poor wouldn't stay that way very long under such a scheme. For the first time in a long time, we'd have a market economy undistorted by Federal taxation.

Redwald, if your theory were correct then our budget would be exploding due to the balooning costs of NPR (to which the second quartile doesn'T "contribute") rather than the entitlements to which they pay dedicated payroll taxes. Anyway, your concerns could be allayed by cutting the payroll taxes of the second quartile and cutting some income tax deductions. Neither the government nor the workers would actually see any more money out of this scheme of course. I wouldn't be against it on grounds other than it being a complete waste of time and energy.

"I've always favored the flat tax, no excuses and no deductions, period." Now why do you think Steve Forbes, when he ran for President on a flat tax platform, advocated no such thing?

Pete, I'm sorry, but I think you verge on RINO-hood. So much of what you write is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Like so many pundits, you have become convinced that real, true, fundamental change is simply impossible, and that the smart money is on tinkering with the welfare state rather than revolutionizing the way government does business. Of course, you might be right, but if you are then this Republic is doomed. It takes major energy to overcome this much inertia, inertia that is carrying us to the precipice.

As for Steve Forbes, who cares? He was running for office, and so nothing he said was necessarily what he personally believed or advocated. A flat tax without a lot of gimmicks would do wonders for this country.

On the other hand, the so-called "fair tax" is a crackpot idea that would sink all conservative ambitions in this country (beware libertarianism, for that way lies damnation). Hitting poor folks with a conspicuous, hefty sales tax at every turn is guaranteed to lose elections. The pain must come once a year, be fairly applied, and limited government.

"As for Steve Forbes, who cares? He was running for office, and so nothing he said was necessarily what he personally believed or advocated."

Well I imagine we can try to recreate what Steve Forbes was thinking when he built his tax cutting, tax reforming protest candidacy (I think he eventually decided that he might actually get elected.)

1. A flat tax that increased taxes on the lower middle class and the working poor while sharply cutting taxes on high earners would be undesirable as policy and preposterous as politics.

2. I Steve Forbes lack the moral fiber to raise taxes on the working poor in support of the misbegotten theory that advocating raising taxes on those in the lower half of the income distribution will somehow make it easier to reform middle-class entitlements. And I am a RINO just like every competitive Republican presidential candidate in recent history.

"And I am a RINO just like every competitive Republican presidential candidate in recent history."

Yea, I think that's been the problem. Too many people in the GOP pretending to be small-government conservatives. We need to stop voting for them (or listening to them).

"1. A flat tax that increased taxes on the lower middle class and the working poor while sharply cutting taxes on high earners would be undesirable as policy and preposterous as politics."

You know, virtually every liberal Democrat would agree with what you just wrote. And 10% from everyone is FAIR, at least for those of us who understand that most rich people have actually EARNED their incomes. 10% from a millionaire is 100K, but from a middle class man making 100K it's only 10K. It's still progressive, but you're right, it doesn't exterminate the rich (which makes it inadequate from your point of view, I guess).

I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would heed you on this blog. Your sensibilities seem to run counter to the spirit of conservativism. Christ, Pete, how did you get this job?

Yea, I think that's been the problem. Too many people in the GOP pretending to be small-government conservatives. We need to stop voting for them (or listening to them)."

That would mean ignoring the policy and political implications of your preferred tax policy and shifting your allegiances to Fantasyland.

"You know, virtually every liberal Democrat would agree with what you just wrote. And 10% from everyone is FAIR, at least for those of us who understand that most rich people have actually EARNED their incomes."

So would (at least implicitly) pretty much every politician who is contesting for votes in outside the zone between your ears or was paying attention to the debt ceiling negotiations (where it turned out much easier to cut discretionary spending than middle-class entitlements.)

One does not have to seek to exterminate the rich to support a progressive (and you seem confused about what "progressive" means in this context) income tax, especially in light of the regressivity of the payroll taxes and much of state-level financing. Only a small fraction of the electorate would join you in willfully ignoring the taxes paid by many if not most workers in the second quartile. Also, when you take into account payroll taxes and recognize that the "employers contribution" mostly comes from what would otherwise be employee wages, many of those who you say pay "no" taxes effectively pay more than 10% in payroll taxes alone. So be happy. Your plan has already succeeded.

"Christ, Pete, how did you get this job?:

It is all just part of the vast RINO conspiracy that seems to have included every major center-right politician of the last several generations. We're through the looking glass people.

Oh, I understand what "progressive" means, whether it's applied to taxes or someone like you. The whole nomenclature of "progressive" vs. "regressive" taxation is left-biased, as you should know (and probably do, but prefer anyway). When people are paying the exact same proportion of their income I call that both "fair" and "progressive." On the other hand, in PeteWorld, where no change worth calling that is ever possible, and the rich OUGHT to give more and more of their wealth to greasy politicians and people who never worked for it, "fair" and "progressive" are whatever suits the prejudices of Pete and like-minded pseudo-conservatives.

You see, Pete and people like him have forgotten what the American experiment is all about. It's not about social engineering or social justice. It's about allowing people to live their own lives without undue interference from that monopoly on coercion we call "government." It's about the government treating all equally under the law, and about laws that don't discriminate against certain classes of people for whatever reason. It's about freedom, Pete.

As for what's politically practical, the deadweight of the welfare state has been part of the Left's grand scheme for a very long time. Once enacted and institutionalized, they knew it would take enormous political will and energy to ever ratchet it down to something manageable. And they knew they'd have plenty of help resisting any changes because so many people would throw up their hands, declare the task impossible, and learn to love Big Brother.

"Oh, I understand what "progressive" means, whether it's applied to taxes or someone like you." so you intentionally misused it. I suppose you intentionally inaccurately described the proportion of taxes paid by the lower middle-class. Only you know why you would do such a silly and easily noticed thing.

"You see, Pete and people like him have forgotten what the American experiment is all about. It's not about social engineering or social justice." This is word salad nonsense. Remember that you were talking about advocating a tax increase on the working poor and the lower middle-class as a tactic for bringing spending under control. No amount of "freedom for the justice of equality against social justice of engineering " buzzwords are going to obscure the self-destructive futility of that strategy

"And they knew they'd have plenty of help resisting any changes because so many people would throw up their hands, declare the task impossible, and learn to love Big Brother."

Only in your fantasy world (where people like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio do not exist) are there no politicians who support a reformed but still substantial welfare state and a level of taxation both larger and substantially differently structured from the one you favor. A bunch of authenticity-politics posturing might make you feel better (mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most non-RINO of them all? Me!") but it is no substitute for either a well thought out policy that balances taxes and spending and a prudent strategy for garnering the support of the majority of our countrymen.

On the other hand, the so-called "fair tax" is a crackpot idea that would sink all conservative ambitions in this country (beware libertarianism, for that way lies damnation).

I know this is pretty much the Pete and Redwald show, but I'm not clear as to why the "fair tax" is an example of "libertarianism," while an exemption-free flat tax is not. Inasmuch as the fair tax involves a complicated system of "prebates," which would presumably need to be managed to by some bureaucracy, I think a fair case could be made that the flat tax is more libertarian.

Or was this just another cheap shot at libertarianism?

Sorry--the last post was mine.

John, also since it would be assessed at the end user point of sale (and be upwards of 30%) the FairTax would be a nightmare to collec as compared to other consumption taxes. It is possible to structure an X-shaped consumption tax, but I don't think the FairTax is it. And Mike Huckabee is a libertarian? Who knew?

Pete, you last response to me was long on sarcasm but short on logic. "Progressive" can mean an increasing rate as one ascends the income scale (as left-liberals would have it), or it can simply mean that as wealth increases so does the tax burden (as it would under a flat tax). As for the lower middle-class, in what universe does being unsuccessful abrogate one's responsibilities as a citizen? All must pay for services that they use/enjoy. That's what's best for the country, and in the long run that's what's best for the poor. If you believe otherwise, you are neither conservative nor libertarian. It's one thing to think of government as a gigantic insurance company, quite another to insist that some policy-holders pay all the premiums while others get off scot-free (and before you start carping about FICA, etc., please realize that many of these people will draw much more in benefits than they will ever paid in). Fairness under the law needs to be restored to the system.

As for Mr. Ryan and his fellow tinkerers, they offer nothing more than temporary patches to a ruptured system. Moreover, such "reforms" will be quickly overwhelmed by the driving urge to spend, spend, spend. This is a disease, and it'll take more than a band-aid to heal it.

Professor Moser, the reason I think the "fair tax" is crazy is that it is massive, conspicuous, and chronic -- absolutely guaranteed to focus blame on its peddlers (which would be us if certain libertarians have their way). It would be the Gotterdammerung of the Right in this country (at least until it was repealed and a generation had passed). It has all the strategic problems of a flat tax (e.g., taxing people who have grown used to not being taxed), but it does this in a painful way every time those people buy much of anything. The rich might like it because their income tax burden is lighter, but it will be a completely different story among less-affluent people. Surcharges on purchases, particularly if they are hefty, are noticed, folks. Let the Left do something crazy like this (e.g., gasoline taxes). Poor folks can understand that 10% of nothing is still nothing, while 10% of a million bucks is quite a lot (and in many cases more than the rich pay today).

Believe it or not, Redwald, I agree with you--and Pete--on the fair tax. What I was objecting to was your characterization of it as an example of "libertarianism." I realize that there are "certain libertarians" who support it, but I think you'll find at least as many who, like you, prefer a flat tax.

Redwald, no, a "flat" tax is not a "progressive" tax as each commonly refers to proportions and tax rates rather than absolute amounts. You are free to make up your own language, but no one is obligated to recognize your definitions. So no, your flat tax proposal is not a progressive tax, is not an air freshener and is not a crustacean. It is possible for a nominally flat tax to have some effectively progressive features by narrowing the taxable base at lower income levels (that is what the Steve Forbes proposal would have done.)

"As for the lower middle-class, in what universe does being unsuccessful abrogate one's responsibilities as a citizen? All must pay for services that they use/enjoy" I don't know why you insist on ignoring this, but the second quartile already effectively pays more than 10% of its income in taxes through the payroll taxes. The portions of the budget to which the second quartile's contributions are least obvious (security and nondefense discretionary spending) give every indication of being the portions of the budget that are easiest to reform. The portions where the contributions of the second quartile are most obvious and the taxes are generally regressive (middle-class entitlements) are out of control and look to break us. Your analysis is divorced from economic and political reality.

"As for Mr. Ryan and his fellow tinkerers, they offer nothing more than temporary patches to a ruptured system" Mr. Ryan has offered a budget that, whatever my criticisms, would place our finances on a sustainable footing without increasing the overall tax burden despite a rapidly aging population.

"Moreover, such "reforms" will be quickly overwhelmed by the driving urge to spend, spend, spend. This is a disease, and it'll take more than a band-aid to heal it."

As a plan, it has significantly greater connection to political reality than one that can be described as "Get most people to vote themselves a tax increase while substantially cutting taxes for high earners, while at the same time not producing enough revenue to avoid a fiscal crisis. And then, when disaster strikes, they will sharply cut services to their elderly parents rather than change the tax system." Good luck with that.

And what about the "first" quintile? And do you think Americans thinking in terms of such statistical income brackets? Right now none but the affluent have a good idea about their actual contributions to "the system" because the bleeding tax code is so Byzantine. One of the prime benefits of a flat tax is clarity and predictability. Do you deny it?

As for "progressive," sure, the way the liberal economists define it is standard. Buy that definition if you want to. Hell, I don't want the label. "Progressive" means unfair and punitive. Great, you win, Pete. If you think such "progressive" measures are good for America, I suggest you walk across the aisle.

As for "political reality," what does that mean exactly, Mr. Pete? Who foresaw the rise of the Tea Party and the enormous power the GOP-controlled House would have on the Obama Administration? I agree that there is such a thing, but 1) it can't easily be known, and 2) it can't easily be predicted. I also know that lots of people with vested interests in the present always say that "political reality" disallows this or that. Like history itself, "political reality" can shift suddenly and without much warning, so let's not predicate our judgments about public policy based on something so capricious and amorphous. Principle (i.e., the Founder's values) and logic (i.e., what we understand about human nature) need to rule the day, for once.

The weird thing is, I'm usually a gradualist and a pragmatist on such issues. Unfortunately, I've ceased to believe that either works to the benefit of the country. We have a nasty kind of evolution going on here and we need a reboot (actually, a return to basics and founding principles).


"Right now none but the affluent have a good idea about their actual contributions to "the system" because the bleeding tax code is so Byzantine."

Among other things, the second quartile usually gets check stubs that quantify their payroll tax contributions. The check stubs both overstates their contributions (deductions usually eliminate their income tax contributions) and understates them (the ""employer contribution" to the payroll taxes is left off even though that money in practice comes out of employee compensation.) One can produce a more transparent tax code without producing a middle-class of working-poor tax increase. One could even produce a more transparent tax code (no deductions etc.) while making the tax code more progressive. Your arguments are not taking you where you seem to think.

"As for "progressive," sure, the way the liberal economists define it is standard."

"Progressive" does not mean salutatory in this context and the political problem with the "flat tax" has nothing to do with people associating flatness with the Great Plains or Thomas Friedman books or whatever. So once again, your flat tax proposal is not a progressive tax, is not an avocado and is not a moon of Jupiter.

"As for "political reality," what does that mean exactly, Mr. Pete? Who foresaw the rise of the Tea Party and the enormous power the GOP-controlled House would have on the Obama Administration? I agree that there is such a thing, but 1) it can't easily be known, and 2) it can't easily be predicted."

I agree with all of that, but you also wrote " such "reforms" [the Ryan reforms] will be quickly overwhelmed by the driving urge to spend, spend, spend. This is a disease, and it'll take more than a band-aid to heal it." I don't think that is a crazy interpretation of the likely course of even a reformed entitlement system (though I think it is probably mistaken.) It is a plausible reading of history and political incentives to judge how a set of policies will endure. So yes, there are plausible and implausible readings of political reality. Only you know how a policy agenda that advocates a middle-class tax increase and sharp cuts in taxes for high earners and (when there is a fiscal crisis) assumes the electorate will opt for sharp and discontinuous cuts to the elderly rather than higher and at least somewhat more progressive taxes is plausible on the national level . A party that adopted that agenda would do about as well as it deserved.

Whatever we do with the tax code, the Democrats will say we taxed the poor to subsidize the rich. It's an irrelevant point, spin and perception will always favor the side who owns the media. Moreover, it's what needs to be done to restore the "American Experiment." Being rich should be irrelevant to taxation -- rich Americans are not cash cows, but sovereign individuals who have all the rights and privileges of other citizens. Hell, even Ben Franklin said as much (that rich bastard!). Sometimes principle needs to trump practical. You can "pragmatically" fritter your country away pretty fast, Pete.

As for "progressive," you must be a school teacher -- forever hung-up on dictionaries. Pete, politics is in part the art of redefining salient concepts. Just as "liberal" has been redefined, so "progressive" is being redefined. Get with the program. What you are calling "progressive" should be "punitive" or "classist" taxation. Personally, I don't give a rat's buttocks whether you like my definition of the term or not. I don't sit on the edge of my seat hoping to impress RINOs.

As for political reality, I suspect it is far more flexible and dynamic than you think. We've seen things in the last 20 years (e.g., full-body searches in airports, a black President, middle-class folks protesting in the streets, socialized medicine) that shouldn't have been possible given "political reality." In short, I don't think your reading of "political reality" is worth beans. Sorry, Pete.

"Whatever we do with the tax code, the Democrats will say we taxed the poor to subsidize the rich." With a policy program of lower-middle and middle-class tax increases, sharp tax cuts on high earners and the assumption that, in fiscal crisis, the electorate would prefer to see sharp and discontinuous cuts to services for the elderly rather than raise taxes on high earners, the Democrats would hardly have to say anything.

"It's an irrelevant point, spin and perception will always favor the side who owns the media." I'm not aware that that there was a mass switch in media ownership between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2008 and 2010. You're just speaking nonsense and making alibis for the failure of your political program if any party were ever self-destructive enough to adopt it.

"Moreover, it's what needs to be done to restore the "American Experiment." Your plan to restore the "American Experiment" would involve the creation of a tax code that the US has never had for even one moment of its history. We have never had a tax code that assesses liabilities strictly by an equal proportion of income. Tax liabilities have always fallen differently on different groups based on residence, income, kind of economic activity, etc. Washington's whiskey tax fell especially heavily on poor farmers with lousy access to transportation networks. Maybe it was wise and maybe it wasn't. Perhaps the President of the Constitutional Convention and the Father of our Country didn't understand the American Experiment. Perhaps you are lost in a labyrinth of your own fantasies.

"As for "progressive," you must be a school teacher -- forever hung-up on dictionaries. Pete, politics is in part the art of redefining salient concepts." I'm sorry for you that it causes you so much distress when you learn that you are using words incorrectly or when other people do not adopt your Humpty Dumpty approach to conversation. "Progressive" in this context, does not mean good. Your flat tax is not a progressive tax, is not South Korea, and (no matter how much you seek to "redefine the "salient concept") is not a ham sandwich.

"As for political reality, I suspect it is far more flexible and dynamic than you think. We've seen things in the last 20 years (e.g., full-body searches in airports, a black President, middle-class folks protesting in the streets, socialized medicine) that shouldn't have been possible given "political reality." The election of twenty-five consecutive African American Presidents and the institution of mandatory airport orgies is about as likely as your preferred tax and spending program. But hey, be flexible.

I think your passions runneth over, Pete. Calm down.

You seem to be a "business-as-usual" kind of guy, the kind of guy we simply don't need (any more that we needed McCain). I think it's time for you to face facts - the party base is feed up with your kind of politics. We want fundamental reforms, not window-dressing. We'll take Ryan's plan in a pinch, but it's not really what we want.

As for throwing seniors under the bus and taxing the poor to death, you exaggerate. The aged are bankrupting this country with medical bills, and it must stop. It's that simple. Something has to give. I think the best way is to gradually throttle down Medicare to allow people to make alternative arrangements (and there are a great variety of alternatives). We simply can't continue with the current welfare state, even if people like you want to.

As for taxation, the income tax was always temporary until 1913, proportionate or otherwise. We've had it about a hundred years now, and look were it has lead us. As for my use of "progressive," I think I know far more about the world than you do, Pete. Fact is, your knowledge base seems limited to me, despite your familiarity with the dictionary. For instance, can you explain the principal reasons for growing income inequality in this country since the 1970s?

Once you understand why we have inequality you begin to understand why using "progressive" taxation is NOT the correct remedy.

And I think you misunderstand - I'm arguing against the use of "progressive" as it is currently understood. I am certainly not alone in seeking this change.

“Taxes are necessary. But the system of discriminatory taxation universally accepted under the misleading name of progressive taxation of income and inheritance is not a mode of taxation. It is rather a mode of disguised expropriation of the successful capitalists
and entrepreneurs.” Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1998), p. 803.)

In short, Pete, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

"You seem to be a "business-as-usual" kind of guy," Can you point to when defined contribution Medicare (of either the Ryan or Capretta-Miller-type) were business-as-usual in the USA? Given our conversation, your statement is nonsense other than as identity politics RINO/progressive/kulak/left-wing deviationism posturing. This is SDS junior auxiliary-level discourse.

"the party base is feed up with your kind of politics" Agitating for a middle-class tax increase is more the preference of left-of-center writers that the Republican base so far as we can tell from the positions of politicians seeking the primary votes of Republican-leaning voters.

"I think the best way is to gradually throttle down Medicare to allow people to make alternative arrangements (and there are a great variety of alternatives). We simply can't continue with the current welfare state, even if people like you want to." Any responsible change to Medicare is going to take a great deal of time to phase in and government liabilities are going to be large in any case. This is going to require revenue. A program of Medicare cuts, middle-class tax increases, and large tax cuts to high earners is about the ideal way to make sure that our political economy is restructured by Bernie Sanders.

"As for taxation, the income tax was always temporary until 1913, proportionate or otherwise." The federal income tax since the introduction of the Sixteenth Amendment has never been flat. Earlier versions of the income tax were "flat" in the Steve Forbes sense (there was one rate) but not in the Redwald sense (since they contained significant deductions that would have reduced or even eliminated the obligations of lower-income workers.

"As for my use of "progressive," I think I know far more about the world than you do, Pete" I thought we had already decided that you knowingly misused the term in order to describe your flat tax proposal.

Were we discussing whether Von Mises approved of the progressive tax or liked the standard usage? So one more time. your flat tax is not a progressive tax, is not the Green Acres television program and is not the lost continent of Atlantis

"Business as usual" means don't try anything too radical. That's you to a 'T', my friend. I suspect you never colored outside the lines as a kid, either.

It is no vice that a flat tax has never been tried. You seem to imply that its various "problems" have kept it from being implemented. That's nonsense. "Progressives" in this country designed the current "progressive" tax system and they have institutionalized it. It's that simple.

Do you really want to get into all the problems with the Ryan proposal? There are many. Perhaps you aren't aware of the "level of discourse" possible (or typical) on blogs. These aren't academic papers or magazine articles. Occasionally PowerLine has an interesting graph (which is appreciated), but NLT is generally dedicated to larger (more philosophical) issues (with the exception of wanna-be pundits like yourself).

I suspect my number-crunching and analytical abilities would surprise you, Pete, but the fact is I blog for entertainment. If you want this to be more than a pissing contest, we'd need a better forum. The paragraph-long snippet isn't really conducive to scholarly discourse.

""Business as usual" means don't try anything too radical." Usually, Business as usual means Business as usual. You could try to return to the pre-Medicare Business as usual or continue our current Business as usual, but defined contribution Medicare would be anything but Business as usual. Blows your mind don't it?

"It is no vice that a flat tax has never been tried." Federal flat income taxes have been implemented (and before the Progressive Era), but not of the kind you favor. You might think about why. You might

"Do you really want to get into all the problems with the Ryan proposal?" There are lots of problems with the Ryan proposal. for starters it probably overstates the medium term savings that could be gotten from efficiency improvements through moving to premium support. It is also about two steps removed from being politically prudent (the two problems are linked but not coextensive.) That is to say that, among its other problems, the Ryan Medicare plan does budget enough money. Josh Barro had some things to say about this and there have been several alternative proposals that I think are better politics and better policy.

"I suspect my number-crunching and analytical abilities would surprise you, Pete, but the fact is I blog for entertainment." Well you're certainly entertaining me, so Mission Accomplished.

Good, I'm glad you recognize some of the problems in Ryan's plan. There are others, of course.

Is the "Mission Accomplished" an allusion to George W Bush, by any chance? Methinks your crypto-leftist colors are showing...again.

As for entertaining you, the point is to entertain myself and enlighten others where possible. The latter isn't possible in your case, so I guess I'll have to be satisfied with the primary goal.

"Good, I'm glad you recognize some of the problems in Ryan's plan" I've only posted criticisms of Ryan's plan in a bunch of post here. Perhaps you can now be glad that I don't think Newt Gingrich should be high on the list of potential GOP presidential nominees.

"Methinks your crypto-leftist colors are showing...again." Thinks again. Actually that is overgenerous. Thinks a first time.

"As for entertaining you, the point is to entertain myself and enlighten others where possible. The latter isn't possible in your case," Possibly you are just a natural performer (self-satirist?) and can't help yourself. As for being enlightening, you are a seemingly inexhaustible resource for demonstrating how resentment, obsession with tribalist identity politics, and a propensity to mythologize the past in self-validating ways can combine to distort thinking. So don't sell yourself short.

Don't think I'm guilty of mythologizing the past, Pete. Don't recall do it, anyway. A few things were better in the past (say, like the Federal Debt), but others were worse (like income tax brackets). Generally I focus on the fundamental malaise rather than the symptoms.

As for tribalism, all people are guilty of it, but the difference is some are not honest about it (mostly liberals...ahem) while others are. It's hard-wired into the human brain, according to evolutionary psychologists. Perhaps you should broaden your reading. Regardless, to dismiss it as a force in American politics is the height of purblind foolishness. It flies in the face of reality (about what I would expect from you, Pete).

I still think Newt has some good ideas, but he shot himself in the foot early on. OK, I was wrong about his candidacy, but I still think losing him weakens the field.

The only distorted (i.e., east-coast, establishment GOP) thinking is going on in your head. It is clear that you are disconnected from the mood of "flyover" country. I think it is likely that we'll end up with some kind of Ryanesque compromise, but that only (briefly) postpones our fundamental problems. My "tribe" is doing its best to return the Federal government to its intended role, but the Left (and people like you) stand in the way.

But I'm sure you think America is "too big to fail." Wonk on, my man

"few things were better in the past (say, like the Federal Debt), but others were worse (like income tax brackets)" So we agree that a deduction-free federal flat income tax (whatever its merits or demerits) is ludicrous as a way to revive the American Experiment.

"As for tribalism, all people are guilty of it," not all people are obsessed with tribal identify markers or use them as a substitute for policy or constitutional thinking. Thank God.

"The only distorted (i.e., east-coast, establishment GOP) thinking is going on in your head. It is clear that you are disconnected from the mood of "flyover" country" Couldn't have provided a better example.

"But I'm sure you think America is "too big to fail." Wonk on, my man" Being given a choice between Democrats who are awaiting a fiscal crisis in which to enact policies they won't openly articulate right now and Republicans wanting middle-class tax increases, high earner tax cuts and very sharp cuts (or possibly abolition) of middle-class entitlements, America could "fail" quite easily. Though I tend to doubt Republicans would adopt such a suicidal course, or if they did, they wouldn't stick by it for very long.

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