This is a welcome development: Call them the debt crisis dissenters. The two parties are miles apart on how to cut the deficit and national debt: Republicans want to slash spending even more. Democrats want to raise revenue. And then there are the other Democrats — the ones who reject the entire premise of the current high-stakes fiscal fight. There’s no short-term deficit problem, they say, and there isn’t even an urgent debt crisis that requires immediate attention.
While past attempts at big deals have failed, this time Obama has serious leverage: House Republicans loathe the fiscal cliff's policies.
In politics, competence sometimes serves as a rhetorical proxy for intent. Politicians like to talk about how terrific they/their ideas are. They aren’t always as gabby about what they/those ideas aim to accomplish. Example: privatization. Some conservatives insist that private enterprise is simply more efficient--more competent--than the government. So why not let the private sector take over certain public functions? But even if we concede that business is categorically more efficient than government, there remains the question of what it's doing so efficiently.
Redistributing wealth is what all public budgets do. The question is whether a given type of redistribution promotes justice and decency.
If we can put a man on the moon and then, 40 years later, persist in spending far more on spacecraft than on passenger trains, we ought to be able to distribute an income-tax receipt that says so.
An itemized income-tax receipt would say, “So you want to talk about reducing government spending? Talk about these things first.” Which would be a far more focused conversation than we’re having now.