"Progressives need to stop worrying and learn to love taxes"


That's the subhed on an American Prospect essay by Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the Obama administration. From the opening paragraph:

In most developed democracies, taxation is a necessary evil that finances the services that make for a fair and dynamic society. Taxes let people take risks with their lives, guarantee a financially secure retirement, educate children, keep our roads drivable, pay police, and help ensure that the benefits of prosperity are broadly shared. But starting in the late 1970s, political entrepreneurs on the right helped launch a broad "tax revolt" that completely changed the public's view of taxation.

Don't recall seeing the taxes=dynamism argument before, let alone the concept that they "let people take risks with their lives," though I suppose one could argue that they have enabled CEOs and money managers to take enormous risks with their too-big-to-fail companies….

Wittingly or no, Yglesias then gives us even more reason to fear Obama's massive budget deficits:

For the moment, that's all for the best. The administration argued, correctly, that its proposed increases in spending are vital to transforming the country's health, energy, and education sectors. The mere fact that the 2010 budget document implies unduly large deficits in 2014 or 2017 is not a problem in 2009 when the bleak macroeconomic outlook calls for large short-term deficits. The moderates were not off base in their concerns about long-term deficits. But, having drawn attention to a real problem, they were unwilling to face the only realistic solution: higher taxes. […]

The United States already does about as much as any other country to curb inequality through the tax code. Where we fall short is in fighting inequality through government spending—we just don't spend very much. If you care about inequality, in other words, the thing to focus on is not soaking the rich through the tax code but rather ensuring that there's enough tax revenue to finance generous public services. Broad social-insurance schemes like Social Security and unemployment insurance, as well as government operations more generally, are strongly progressive in their impact.

Do increased "government operations" actually lead to those "generous public services," let alone positive outcomes in the broader economy? If so, I'm still waiting to see a shred of evidence cited in the progressive wonderland of California.

I debated Yglesias on Bloggingheads back in March.