Michael Gerson and Mark Shields converse with Jim Lehrer about the debt ceiling politics unfolding in Washington.
Shield's summary of the Republican position, one
'Well, if you put a penny of revenue, a penny of revenue, if you even suggest that a registered nurse in an emergency room and a New York firefighter shouldn't pay taxes twice the rate of a hedge fund manager, we leave. We're not going to be a party to that.' That's -- that's basically where they were.
This whole experience, Jim, of this deficit and debt ceiling has so diminished everybody involved in it. I saw embarrassment, total professional and personal embarrassment, on the part of members of Congress this week that they were a part of this. And that diminishes confidence and trust and optimism about the government's ability to do anything. That's one of the casualties of this.
Think Progress notes:
Institute for Policy Studies’ (IPS) Sam Pizzigati... cites an IPS paper from last spring to make the argument that if corporations and households making more than $1 million paid the same rates as they did in 1961, our debt would virtually disappear in a decade:
Some numbers — from an Institute for Policy Studies report released this past spring — can help us better visualize just how monumental this political failure has been. If corporations and households taking in $1 million or more in income each year were now paying taxes at the same annual rates as they did back in 1961, the IPS researchers found, the federal treasury would be collecting an additional $716 billion a year. In other words, if the federal government started taxing the wealthy and their corporations at the same rates in effect a half-century ago, the federal debt to investors would almost totally vanish over the next decade.
As ThinkProgress has previously reported, the richest Americans are paying their lowest taxesin a generation. Additionally, Center for American Progress experts Michael Linden, Seth Hanlon, and Jordan Eizenga have shown that the United States is actually very low-tax compared to other developed countries.
There's some evidence that the coalition government's austerity measures in the UK aren't helping the economy there: UK GDP grew by a mere 0.2% over the last nine months. Some may argue that's because the full effects of the austerity measures haven't kicked in yet. Others may point out that President Obama's stimulus package has done little better for the US. Still others may then point out that the stimulus package was about 22% tax cuts, actually, not direct stimulus. Some might complain that the tax cuts weren't sufficiently aimed at corporations or too strongly geared towards the President's commitment to fulfill his campaign pledge to cut taxes for the middle class. Others might note that almost none of the stimulus was directed towards a massive new works (jobs) program. Yet others might then point out that it's hard to imagine what those jobs would be. Is it realistic to have out of work Americans doing the hammer, nails, and shovel sort of work the WPA used in the 1940s, since today's severe infrastructure needs--everything from roads and bridges to internet access and energy supply and distribution improvement--are comparatively technical? Some might then argue that the WPA didn't help the economy; that employment and the economy improved because the US switched toward war-related production. Others then note that war-related production is government-sponsored job creation: the government is the buyer, paying with taxpayer or borrowed money, and offering incentives to businesses to switch over to war-related production.
Yet others would say all of this is less important than the wealth disparity problem in America.
But others, like Michael Gerson (above), might note that dysfunctionality in Washington makes action on wealth gaps, including the racial one, or pretty much anything else, unlikely.
The discussions and back-and-forth can go on and on.
Mr. Shields got the first word in this post, so Mr. Gerson can have the last:
In normal times, a worsening social problem like the wealth gap [between whites and blacks] might unite creative liberals and compassionate conservatives in an unlikely policy alliance. Meetings would take place at the New America Foundation. Bipartisan legislation would be introduced. It is a Washington I can remember — but now seems impossibly distant.