In the Arena


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It’s nice to see Joe Biden sticking by his guns this morning about the need for wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes.

But you’ve got to wonder about the marginal rates our children will have to pay to cover (a) $1 trillion in bad mortgage debts assumed by the federal government and (b) the retirement and medical care of my solipsistic baby boom generation.

The irony of all this, as Krugman points out today, is that the same folks who have been wailing for years about the sins of big government, the threat of “socialized” medicine and so forth are now supporting a plan to socialize the sins of unregulated capitalism. As Biden said to Katie Couric:

I am so sick and tired of this phoniness. The truth of the matter is that we are in trouble. And the people who do not need a new tax cut should be willing, as patriotic Americans, to understand the way to get this economy back up on their feet is to give middle class taxpayers a break.

Except for one thing: I’m not sure we’ve got the money to give the middle class taxpayers a break. We have to prioritize. Before doling out tax breaks to families with incomes over, say, $75,000, I’d like to see money carefully invested in high-tech infrastructure and alternative energy projects that would (a) put people to work and, more important, (b) assure that the U.S. doesn’t continue to fall behind Asia and Europe in the development of more efficient transportation and communication systems. A good way to assure that the money is invested carefully, with accountability, would be to institute the Infrastructure Board that Obama has proposed: a board of five governors, similar to the Federal Reserve, that would evaluate and approve (or reject) every proposed new project.

One of the reasons why the Democrats’ call for government activism is greeted warily by the public is that people simply don’t believe government can be operated wisely and efficiently. It seems obvious, given the socialization of bad credit, that we are about to embark on a vast expansion of government activism. My guess is that this election will be won by the party that can credibly promise that this new era will be marked by a greater level of probity and accountability than has defined the Reagan era.