Capital Exchange is a new blog featuring debate among some of Washington’s smartest budget and policy experts. –Eric Pianin, Washington Editor and Moderator
Not surprisingly, the intellectual juices flow when a divergent group of fiscal aficionados consider the appropriate role and level of taxes. I’d like to offer a point or two in response to the thoughtful posts of Michael Tanner and Brian Riedl, which came as rejoinders to my original post of earlier this week.
Tanner seems to buy my essential point about the practical necessity of taxation and what he calls the oppositional “dogma” on the right against taxes that “renders unnecessary any discussion about the size and role of government.” I think, however, that he remains a bit absolutist himself in suggesting, as he did twice, that taxes make us all “less free.” That may be true in a strictly economic sense, with the government spending our hard-earned money for purposes on which policymakers decide, but we don’t live in a strict economic sense. When we consider “freedom” in a larger sense – one that includes political as well as economic freedom – then the taxes that financed our effort in World War II, that supported the Marshall Plan, and that sustained us in the Cold War made us, in the end, more free, not less. I merely suggest that we view freedom more broadly.
Riedl has lots of complaints about my post but, since Tanner backed my main point about all-too-rote opposition to taxes on the right, I need not reiterate it. Riedl also suggests, however, that I have nothing to say about the big spending programs that are driving our soaring deficits. Quite the contrary, I invite him to read my earlier posts for The Fiscal Times (and numerous op-eds in recent years) on the subject. As I have stated, what will drive our future deficits are soaring health care costs that appear on the federal books in the form of Medicare and Medicaid and also, though less significantly, the growth of Social Security. In addition, I have called for a comprehensive effort to rein in health care costs (beyond whatever the new health reform law will accomplish), to strengthen Social Security, and, as necessary, to further plug our fiscal gap by raising taxes. You can’t say everything in every blog post but, make no mistake – I’ve covered the spending side forcefully elsewhere.
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Lawrence J. Haas is former Communications Director to Vice President Gore and, before that, to the White House Office of Management and Budget. He's now a public affairs consultant who writes widely about foreign and domestic affairs, including fiscal policy.