A Good Deal Will Raise Tax Rates, Fix Entitlements

Bloomberg
Dec. 4, 2012

Although it isn’t yet time to panic about the fiscal cliff, negotiations so far aren’t exactly going well. The Republicans are committing themselves to an unsustainable principle of no marginal tax-rate increases whatsoever. And the Democrats are failing to seize the moment to make progressive reforms to Medicare and Social Security.

There’s still time to come to an agreement to prevent the more than $600 billion in federal spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January while also raising the debt limit, but both sides will need to get out of the boxes they have put themselves in...

There is also the debt limit, which, according to the best guesses of both the Congressional Budget Office and the Bipartisan Policy Center, will be reached in the first quarter of 2013.

So the question for the Democrats is: Even if you win higher marginal tax rates, how do you plan to get the debt limit increased? The Republicans, after all, could cave on raising taxes but still be unwilling to include a debt-limit increase in the agreement, absent any changes to entitlements. In that case, the fiscal-cliff victory would be Pyrrhic, with another crisis arriving in February or March.