Ross Douthat thinks that conservatives are “overstating the political feasibility of passing a V.A.T.” I’d say it’s not just conservatives: Non-conservatives who want a VAT are overstating it too. (Paul Volcker for example.) Douthat’s point is that the middle class is still very resistant to higher taxes on itself, and finds it curious that conservatives, of all people, would forget this point. (He shouldn’t be so surprised: Conservative thinking about taxes has in recent years has tended to ignore the middle class.)
For a VAT to become law a lot of people would have to vote for it. It is hard to see the Democrats having the stomach to propose middle-class tax increases this year; and if they wait until next year they probably won’t have the votes to enact it without Republican votes that will be hard to obtain. In my view, during the next few years we could get a VAT only if Congress is legislating in a crisis atmosphere. An impending crisis won’t be enough.