The second half of the interview shifted to taxes, with Pelley setting it up: “We wondered whether he thinks the government needs more revenue in the form of higher taxes.” Blankfein’s answer: “In the long run there has to be more revenue,” he said, adding that it is logical that the burden of more revenue will fall disproportionately on wealthier people. In this case, Pelley remembered the “Why” question: “Why is an increase in revenue, in tax money, necessary? Why can’t you just cut your way out of the deficit?” Some people wouldn’t like the society we would have if we did that, Blankfein replied. “What kind of society would it be?” Pelley asked. “The safety net would be more porous and lower to the ground,” Blankfein said, apparently meaning it would have more holes and fewer people would qualify for help.
If Pelley had felt unusually ambitious, he might have touched on an even larger possibility embedded in Blankfein’s candor on CBS. In an opinion piece in The New York Times in October before the election, Thomas Edsall, long-time Washington Post political writer, author, and professor of journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, described what he called an “unexplored election theme”:
The conservative political class recognizes that the halcyon days of shared growth, with the United States leading the world economy, may be over. The wealthy are acutely aware that the political threat to their status and comfort would come from the rising popular demand for policies of income redistribution. It is for this reason that the Republican Party is determined to protect the Bush tax cuts, to prevent tax hikes; to further cut domestic social spending; and more broadly to take a machete to the welfare state. Insofar as Republicans prevail in their twin aims of cutting—or even eliminating—social spending and maintaining or lowering tax rates, they will have succeeded in obstructing the restoration of social insurance programs in the future.
In any event, there is lots of stuff for CBS and the rest of the media to explore as the bandwagon for a “Grand Bargain” that would shake the social safety net steams ahead.