The central issue of our time is the debate over the size and scope of government. Two unpleasant but undeniable mathematical truths limit the feasible policy choices. The recent sound and fury of the fiscal cliff follies in the end signified nothing because the resolution was in fact just a denial of both truths.
The first truth is that the current tax rates cannot support the promises made to middle-class Americans. The most unaffordable items in fiscal projections are Social Security for everyone and government-sponsored health care for the middle class. You cannot preserve these even with Draconian slashing of military, infrastructure, welfare, education, and other expenditures.
The second truth is that you cannot pay for the Life of Julia, or any vision of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, without massive and increasingly regressive middle-class taxes. The poor don’t have the money to pay for a European-style welfare state, and the rich, rich as they are, don’t have anywhere near enough.