Progressivism’s numbers challenge

by Ryan Streeter on January 1, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Ross Douthat says “the left-wing path to solvency looks pretty implausible right now”:

There is a significant constituency among Congressional Democrats that was already uncomfortable with the $250,000 threshold and wanted to push it higher — all the way to a million dollars, if a certain influential New York Senator had his way — and the possibility that these Democrats might go wobbly in a post-cliff scenario gave the White House a reason (or an excuse) to concede ground that Obama had once promised to defend unstintingly. Nor is this tax-wary caucus likely to grow weaker with time: It exists because many Democratic lawmakers represent (and are funded by) a lot of affluent professionals in wealthy, high-cost-of-living states, and that relationship is only likely to loom larger if current demographic and political trends persist. Is a Democratic Party that shies away from raising taxes on the $250,000-a-year earner (or the $399,999-a-year earner, for that matter) in 2013 — when those increases are happeningly automatically! — really going to find it easier to raise taxes on families making $110,000 in 2017 or 2021? Color me skeptical: The lesson of these negotiations seems to be that Democrats are still skittish about anything that ever-so-remotelyresembles a middle class tax increase, let alone the much larger tax increases (which would eventually have to hit people making well below $100,000 as well) that their philosophy of government ultimately demands.