Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sermon on the Fiscal Mount

In Congress, there's no more finessing this:
Our budget is bound for the precipice.
The free ride is ending
(Low taxes, high spending),
Though Washington's slow in addressing this.

With the US in fiscal distress so,
We could levy more from the noblesse, though
The mean millionaire
Pays more than their share,
(If billionaires still somewhat less so).

Some say for the deficit's end,
We must simply rein in what we spend,
Though cutting back solely
Would undermine wholly
The programs on which most depend.

It's time for the US community
To realize that none have immunity;
To fix our finances,
The most likely chance is:
In sacrifice, we may find unity.

The preceding limerick homily, in this summer of the Fiscal Cliff, was inspired by David Wessel's column in The Wall Street Journal, in which he points out that there are no easy, scientific solutions to the question of "tax fairness," and by extension, deficit reduction. Mr. Wessel's figures demonstrate that, while taxes on the rich have come down over the last 30 years, so have those on everyone else. Somewhat sparingly, he does mention that the super-rich - the 0.1%, the Forbes 400 - do pay less than the "merely" rich because of their reliance on income from dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at only 15%. The aforementioned inequity notwithstanding, it appears insufficient to look for deficit reduction only by "asking the rich to pay their fair share," as it does only by "cutting out-of-control spending." In other words, we can't solve our fiscal problems only by asking the other person to take the hit.

Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz for highlighting the key facts of Mr. Wessel's column.

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