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Even Paul Ryan wants to broaden the tax base

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Jason Reed / Reuters

(Read caption) US Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks at the 2011 Fiscal Summit on Solutions for America's future in Washington May 25, 2011. Ryan has outlined a two-part tax policy reform, but the two components cancel each other out, writes guest blogger Diane Lim Rogers.

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On Wednesday I attended the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s “Fiscal Summit”–what felt like the fiscal policy world’s version of the Oscars, complete with stars like Bill Clinton, Paul Ryan, and two-thirds of the cast formerly known as the “Gang of Six” (now five), and even video presentations of the deficit-reduction proposals from six think tanks that felt amazingly similar to the clips from the Best Picture nominees.

President Clinton set the tone by encouraging an emphasis on the positive. Instead of painting doomsday scenarios about what would happen if we don’t get our act together and reduce the deficit, he said we ought to emphasize what we have to gain from fiscal responsibility–you know, just little things (just kidding) like a strong economy and a more secure future for our kids and grandkids.

And in terms of the variety of proposals from the variety of participating think tanks, both the Wall Street Journal’s David Wessel, and the Tax Policy Center’s Howard Gleckman point out that while there are deep philosophical differences between the most liberal (Economic Policy Institute) and most conservative (Heritage Foundation) groups in terms of their views on the optimal size of government, they still all came up with mathematically consistent proposals that would actually reduce the deficit. Heritage’s plan cuts spending the most in order to support a lower level of taxation (around the historical average of 18-19 percent of GDP), while EPI’s raises taxes the most in order to support a larger government.

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