We need to compromise. Let’s start with tax reform.

Ryan believes that the country faces a clearly demarcated choice. The Democratic Party, he argues, believes in creating a European-style cradle-to-grave social welfare state, while the Republicans believe in a free-market opportunity society. There is no overlap between the two visions and very little reason to think they can be reconciled.

I argued that Obama and his aides are liberal or center-left pragmatists and that nothing they have said or written suggests they want to turn the U.S. into Sweden. I continued that Ryan’s sharply polarized vision is not only journalistically inaccurate, it makes compromise and politics impossible. If every concession is regarded as an unprincipled surrender that takes us inexorably farther down the road to serfdom, then nothing will get done and the nation will go bankrupt.

If Obama moved vigorously on this sort of tax reform, starting at the State of the Union, he would vindicate my description of him, which would be nice. He would also change the tone in Washington. The health care reform debate was polarized, but the tax reform debate is not. Almost everybody agrees on the basic outlines. The current system is so rotten everybody could get something they want out of reforming it.