In the interest of fairness, I think it’s imperative to point out that, on the question of tax revenue realism, President Obama is only marginally better than rival Mitt Romney. I say better because Obama openly admits that he plans to raise taxes. I say marginally because … well, because from there, things get fuzzy.
As Reihan Salam has pointed out:
The president and his allies have (rightly) pointed out that the Romney-Ryan tax plan raises more questions than it answers, e.g., which tax expenditures will be reduced or eliminated? But what we don’t often discuss is that the same is true of the Obama-Biden tax plan. The Obama-Biden ticket has had the luxury of both claiming fiscal rectitude and attacking draconian spending cuts by calling for revenue levels higher than the levels that would be generated by the Bush-era tax code. Yet the revenue levels Democrats have been willing to defend are not plausibly in line with their spending commitments, and more broadly with their aspirations for increases in public investment.
Salam is right. Obama’s embrace of higher taxes on the wealthy is an overrated badge of fiscal honor. The fact is, the president’s position polls well, and it’s a useful cudgel with which to bang Republicans as the party of the rich. And, on the question of arithmetic (to employ President Bill Clinton’s punchline measuring stick in Charlotte), letting the Bush tax cuts expire a medium-term budget solution at best — and only if all of them expire, not just those on income of $250,000 or more a year.
In fairness to both campaigns, the discussion of granular budget details is strictly academic. Come January 2013, the pressures of the “fiscal cliff” environment will likely ensure that no one’s taxes go up. Whether it’s President Obama or President Romney, I suspect Congress will continue to kick the Revenue Gap can down the road until it’s sufficiently clear that we’ve achieved a self-sustaining recovery.