Tax Me Please, Says Columnist Kristof, While Calling for Defense Cuts as Libya Hawk

Columnist Nicholas Kristof joined the "tax me, please," brigade in his Thursday column that is sure to win him new fans the day before tax day: "Raise America's Taxes."

President Obama in his speech on Wednesday confronted a topic that is harder to address seriously in public than sex or flatulence: America needs higher taxes.

That ugly truth looms over today's budget battles, but politicians have mostly preferred to run from reality. Mr. Obama's speech was excellent not only for its content but also because he didn't insult our intelligence.

There is no single reason for today's budget mess, but it's worth remembering that the last time our budget was in the black was in the Clinton administration. That's a broad hint that one sensible way to overcome our difficulties would be to revert to tax rates more or less as they were under President Clinton. That single step would solve three-quarters of the deficit for the next five years or so.

So would cutting spending levels to the Clinton era, for that matter.

Kudos to Mr. Obama for boldly stating that truth in his speech - even if he did focus only on taxes for the very wealthiest. I also thought he was right to say that we need spending cuts - including in our defense budget. Mr. Obama didn't say so, but the United States accounts for almost as much military spending as the entire rest of the world put together.

(A side note: Kristof wants cuts in defense spending while also being a hawk for bombing Libya, a country the U.S. has been at war with for 26 days. The late Times columnist R.W. Apple famously declared Afghanistan a quagmire on October 31, 2001, day 24 of our intervention there. On Monday, reporter David Sanger more mildly referred to the conflict in Libya as a "stalemate.")

Kristof concluded:

Ever since Walter Mondale publicly committed hara-kiri in 1984 by telling voters that he would raise their taxes, politicians have run from fiscal reality. As baby boomers age and require Social Security and Medicare, escapism will no longer suffice. We need to have a frank national discussion of painful steps ahead, and since I'm not a politician, let me be perfectly clear: raise my taxes!

Since Kristof is so eager to give, perhaps he would prefer to eliminate the middle man (Congress) and send a "gift" directly to the Treasury.