The Washington Post has come out against the progressive tax raises proposed by Congress to pay for health care. It does so reluctantly – it’s not against the principle of progressive taxes generally – but apparently they feel that the combination of Medicare cuts and wider-than-expected targets for the surcharge are just unacceptable.

…in principle, higher taxes for the well-heeled could make sense — as part of a broader rationalization of the unduly complex tax code.

But there is no case to be made for the House Democratic majority’s proposal to fund health-care legislation through an ad hoc income tax surcharge for top-earning households. The new surtax would hit individual households earning $350,000 and above. It would start at 1 percent, bumping up to 1.5 percent at $500,000 in income and to 5.4 percent at $1 million. The new levy would begin in 2011 and is supposed to raise $540 billion over 10 years, about half the projected cost of health-care reform. The rest of the money would come from reduced spending on Medicare and Medicaid — though the surtax for the lower two categories would jump by a percentage point each in 2013 unless the Office of Management and Budget determines that the rest of the bill has saved more than $150 billion.


The long-term deficit is driven by the aging of the population as well as by growing health-care costs, both contributing to Social Security and Medicare expenses. There is simply no way to close the gap by taxing a handful of high earners. The House actions echo President Obama’s unrealistic campaign promise that he can build a larger, more progressive government while raising taxes on only the wealthiest.

To evoke one of my favorite authors, it would be unseemly for me to ask:

  • Does the surcharge of 350K households (not individuals) and above perhaps hit too many senior staff at the Washington Post for comfort?
  • Does the projected Medicare/Medicaid cuts perhaps also hit too many senior staff at the Washington Post for comfort?
  • Does this mean that the Washington Post now regrets its frankly laughable endorsement of the current President, back in October? Particularly since McCain’s – how did they put it? Ah, yes: “irresponsible selection of a running mate” – had a better grasp on what was coming than the Washington Post’s editorial board?

You know what? I feel like being unseemly.

Moe Lane

Crossposted to Moe Lane.