As I noted below, one thing that makes all the gushing about Paul Ryan’s “bold” and “courageous” fiscal policies even more absurd is that his plan lowers taxes on the rich, when by any reasonable measure, you can’t be serious about our fiscal situation unless you are willing to make possible tax increases part of the discussion.
Now fiscally conservative senator Tom Coburn made that very same point on the Senate floor. Per a transcript from his office:
I would call on my colleagues to start thinking about what the real disease is in Washington, and the real disease is, we don’t have the courage to make the very hard choices that are in front of our country today and then live with the results of that in terms of how it’s going to impact our political careers. Everybody’s got a program they want to protect.
Well, the message for America today is every program’s going to get hit. The Defense Department’s going to get hit, every program’s going to get hit. My taxes are going to go up. Sorry, they’re going to go up. This country cannot get out of this mess with the behavior that we’re exhibiting in this body, and if we fail to do what is necessary for our country at this critical time in our juncture, history will deem us absolutely incompetent. With that, I yield the floor.
Obviously, there’s a great deal that Dems and Coburn would disagree about, but it would appear they do agree that revenue increases have to be part of any solution to our fiscal dilemma. Ryan himself previously acknowledged in an oblique way that tax hikes shouldn’t be taken off the table, which represented progress of sorts, but he then followed up with his current proposal, which lowers taxes for the rich and shifts the burden of fixing our fiscal situation downward.
Now Coburn has said explicitly on the senate floor that tax hikes will have to be part of the equation, adding that any attendant failure to come to grips with reality would be “absolutely incompetent.” Coburn, too, is widely deemed by Beltway commentators to be a serious voice on fiscal matters. So perhaps all the folks gushing about Ryan’s “boldness” and “seriousness” will think to ask why he isn’t acknowledging what Coburn did here.
UPDATE: I didn’t mean to imply that Coburn doesn’t support Ryan. He does. Coburn also said today: “Paul Ryan has had the courage to do what very few politicians have done. He has told the American people the truth about our impending debt crisis and put forward solutions to get us out of this mess. Anyone who attacks his plan without offering one of their own has no business serving in elected office.”
Obviously Coburn would differ markedly with Dems over how to fix our fiscal situation. But the crucial point here is that he’s alone among Republicans in admitting that increased revenues must be part of the discussions if they are to be at all serious.