I don’t claim the power to foresee the future, but when President George W. Bush and his Republican Congress enacted two huge tax cuts in the early years of his administration, I warned my husband that we were heading into a fiscal hole.
Just a few years after the federal government had — through a combination of spending reductions and revenue increases — turned deficits into surpluses, we seemed determined to bring back the red ink.
We succeeded. Though our necessary response to terrorism added unexpectedly to our expenditures, the Bush tax cuts played a significant role in sending us back into deficit financing of our government. We have a chance to reverse this trend again, but only if we make increased revenues the centerpiece of a debt-reduction package.
The loud denunciations we hear about taking “my money” whenever increased public revenues are mentioned implies that these angry taxpayers live on a cloud somewhere, never driving on public roads, using the public library, sending their kids to public schools or seeking medical care at hospitals funded with public money.
This is, of course, ridiculous, although certainly we have to be careful who we tax and how much. A reasonable way to raise more revenues from those who can best afford to provide it would be to allow some of those Bush tax cuts to expire: The ones applying to the 2 percent of households with annual incomes over $250,000.
This simple act would raise almost a trillion dollars over the next decade, allowing us to bring down deficits while bolstering the public services we all need.
Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe should learn from the past and embrace a restoration of fair tax rates on the wealthy as the key to deficit reduction.