WHO WILL BELL THE CAT?….I’ve seen Bruce Bartlett’s latest NRO article blogged several places, and it’s an interesting piece. Basically, he says there’s a good chance that something will go badly wrong with the U.S. economy in the next couple of years, and if it does we’re screwed. We’ll have no choice except to engage in some painful deficit reduction:

The package will have to reduce the deficit by at least two percentage points of GDP annually to meaningfully affect financial markets and restore confidence, and it is unrealistic to think that this can all be done on the spending side. Therefore, taxes will be on the table. Voters need to ask themselves which party they prefer to manage this process when the time comes.

Now that’s an interesting question, isn’t it? But which party is he talking about?

The obvious answer, since this is Bruce Bartlett writing in NRO, is that he thinks the Republicans are the better choice. But I suspect that’s not what he thinks. After all, this is Bruce Bartlett writing in NRO. If he thought the Republican party was the better choice, surely he’d just come out and say so. A brief case could be made in only a couple of paragraphs, and it would surely be a crowd pleaser for NRO’s audience.

But no. Instead he’s coy. Perhaps he knows that this is a delicate subject that needs to be approached slowly and delicately lest his audience desert him. Perhaps he’s just planting a seed for later nurturing.

But it’s a delicate subject only if Bartlett, honest man that he is, has become unsure that the Republicans are up to the task. After all, we’re not even talking about generic Republicans, are we? We’re talking about George W. Bush. And what are the odds that George W. Bush will be willing to raise taxes under any circumstances?

So if you think that (a) painful though it is, there’s a good chance taxes will have to be raised in the next couple of years, (b) George Bush is the Republican candidate for president this year, and (c) George Bush will never raise taxes ? if you think all that, then perhaps even a conservative can conclude that George Bush is not the right man to be president during the period 2005-2009.

Then again, maybe I’m the one being too clever by half, and Bartlett will soon present an article making a detailed argument for why Republicans are more likely to raise taxes responsibly circa 2006 than Democrats. Maybe I’ll send him an email and ask.