In a column that he describes as a “luscious orgy of optimism,” David Brooks cites Joel Kotkin’s book The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 to argue that America’s future is actually bright. The argument is based around demographics, specifically, the idea that:
Over the next 40 years, demographers estimate that the U.S. population will surge by an additional 100 million people, to 400 million over all. The population will be enterprising and relatively young. In 2050, only a quarter will be over 60, compared with 31 percent in China and 41 percent in Japan.
While he uses this as a jumping off point to speak about the dynamism of our economic future, at no point does he explain how any of this economic boom can actually occur within the context of our crippling debt burden that will impose incentive-killing taxes on Americans and cement a culture of dependency.
The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, has estimated the marginal tax rates that would be necessary to balance the long-term budget. It found that the rate for the lowest bracket would have to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent; those in the 25-percent bracket would have to pay 63 percent; and the top rate would need to be increased from 35 percent to a staggering 88 percent. But these numbers are only theoretical. In reality, the CBO tells us, “Such tax rates would significantly reduce economic activity and would create serious problems with tax avoidance and tax evasion. Revenues would probably fall significantly short of the amount needed to finance the growth of spending; therefore, tax rates at such levels would not be feasible.”
As much as I’d like to believe that the future of America is bright, I don’t have much confidence that politicians in either party will make the necessary cuts to the welfare state to avert the impending fiscal collapse.