Do you ever have a suspicion that some folks would have an itch to raise taxes on “the wealthiest Americans,” even if we could balance the budget and put everybody on Social Security without an additional penny in tax revenue?

I have long suspected that many on the left see higher taxes as the end, not the means. Pete Wehner concurs and explains what is behind their obsession with higher taxes for the rich:

Republicans need to unmask the philosophy guiding modern liberalism when it comes to taxes. What liberals are interested in isn’t growth so much as egalitarianism and redistribution for its own sake. For many on the left, increasing taxes isn’t about economics as much as morality. They believe taxing the wealthy is a virtue, to the point that they would penalize “the rich” even if that has harmful economic consequences. Recall that during a campaign debate, when asked by Charles Gibson about his support for raising capital gains taxes even if that caused a net revenue loss to the Treasury, Obama sided with tax increases “for purposes of fairness.”

This is the point that must be hammered home. It will be the key issue of the 2012 presidential race (President Obama sounded the theme in his budget address last week), though, as usual, the president and his tax crowd will couch their argument in terms of need rather than their ideology. That is because most Americans want their government to be solvent (need) but don’t share the ideology of the tax raisers.

Those of us who believe in growth and dynamism have a good chance to win the argument, if it is made, because, as Wehner notes:

As a political matter, of course, class warfare does not have a particularly successful track record. But, to keep it that way, Republicans need to provide a compelling response to the Obama strategy. Fortunately such a response exists.

Obama’s argument is built on sand. A tax increase on the wealthy would fall far short of the revenues needed to reverse our fiscal trajectory. Our budget problems are significantly worse today than they were in the 1990s. There are not nearly enough wealthy people in the nation to tax in order to tame our debt. If the president wants higher taxes to improve our fiscal imbalance, he will need to embrace a massive middle-class tax increase and/or a value added tax (VAT). But Obama hasn’t shown the slightest preference for that option. It’s pure fiction to pretend that higher taxes on those making more than $200,000 will make much of a dent in our debt, given the size of our long-term spending problem. Obama’s argument isn’t with Republicans. It’s with basic arithmetic.