I know it’s illegitimate to refer to a professed conservative favorably in these surroundings, but nevertheless I want to underline Ross Douthat’s column in Monday’s New York Times: “The Class War We Need.” Douthat uses mortgage deduction to make the point that too much of our tax structure and our entitlement structure goes to the affluent or relatively affluent. Which is not a horrible thing, except that it is paid for by the middle class — which both major political parties profess to see as the backbone of America. The same point applies to employee health care tax deductions, export subsidies, Social Security, and Medicare, among other programs.
This all adds up to a lot of budget dollars, which could be reallocated — infrastructure? — or used even to lower some taxes. But politics-as-usual means none of this will change. These programs are, collectively, the third rail of American politics. Plus, dealing sensibly with them runs against the current dominant ideologies of the Congressional wings of both parties.
But at some point, one of the parties, or a new entrant, is going to decide that real reform, a more realistic view of what government can and can’t do, increased spending on true public needs, and long-run fiscal health all add up to a platform that could get us to a better future economy.
Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Bo Cutter is formerly a managing partner of Warburg Pincus, a major global private equity firm. Recently, he served as the leader of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) transition team.