Ross Douthat discusses the two major political parties and the debt:
In this landscape, no matter which painful solution polls better in the abstract, a political coalition that’s actually laid the groundwork for what it wants to do seems more likely to succeed in doing it. The Republican Party is an unserious party in many ways, but it has leaders (from Paul Ryan to Tom Coburn) who understand that crucial point, and who have spent the last few years elaborating the kind of entitlement reforms that the conservative vision of government requires, and putting their fellow Republicans on the record in support of them.
I think even this is giving the GOP too much credit. The GOP is not willing to put their name to any specific entitlement reforms that could hurt them with voters – especially when it comes to Medicare, and Medicare is nearly all that matters when it comes to the long-term debt. In the recent “fiscal cliff” negotiations, Republicans flatly refused to propose entitlement cuts, instead demanding that Obama propose them. In the 2012 election, Romney and Ryan relentlessly attacked Obama for cutting Medicare spending, essentially surrendering this issue to Democrats by treating cuts to Medicare as unthinkable.
From Barack Obama on down, I don’t see the same thing happening on the Democratic side; instead, I see a party that’s still loath to acknowledge that its program requires sacrifice from anyone save the wealthy, and that just responded to a moment of maximum leverage by narrowing its definition of who constitutes the rich. If Democrats want to raise middle class taxes — and I mean really raise them, not just cut deals that nudge revenue upward a little here and there — they need to lay the political and policy groundwork for that kind of push, and they need to start relatively soon.
I think this is absolutely correct. Barack Obama, by swearing to never, ever raise taxes on anyone but the top half of the upper class, has essentially surrendered on revenues to the Republicans. The Democratic Party’s agenda is simply not affordable if we take the position that no American earning under a quarter million dollars a year should pay for it.
When Bush passed his ten-year tax cuts, Democrats pointed out – correctly – that the tax cuts were unaffordable, would lead to soaring deficits, and would make paying for a first-world government impossible. Now Democrats have made 82% of Bush’ tax cuts permanent, and bizarrely, are counting that as a coup.