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The Case For Higher Taxes, Round 1

In today's New York Times, the inestimable David Leonhardt gives voice to what everyone (or every sane person) already knows, but is afraid to say: After decades of tax cuts, after piling up massive debt beholden to foreign creditors, and with the public firmly behind larger government programs, taxes are going to have to go up. The problem is, Leonhardt explains, higher taxes on just the tippy-top of American households (as President Obama promised last night) won't be enough: "The problem can't be solved just by taxing the rich. That top 1 percent pays only about one-quarter of federal taxes. Once the recession ends, taxes on the not-so-rich will need to rise, too."

Leonhardt doesn't pretend this will be easy, or that there's an obvious solution (though he does propose stringing out tax increases, or post-dating them, a la Reagan and Social Security taxes). But he raises a good point: The historically low rate of taxation in this country is unsustainable, and we all--but liberals especially--need to develop a political vocabulary to discuss how we can raise it.

--Clay Risen