By Thomas Mitchell
Now safely ensconced in retirement for two years, former Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid has suddenly discovered the country is spending more money than it reaps in taxes, driving up the national debt.
“We have a president who seems not to care about the debt,” Reid told Sam Shad on the “Nevada Newsmakers” program late this past month, adding, “We are already past the tipping point.”
Reid said he likes Republican President Trump, who raised money for his election campaigns back when he was a registered Democrat, but does not think he has been a very good president.
With the national debt now standing at $22.5 trillion, Reid called that “one of the biggest problems facing the country.” Never mind that in 1982 when he was first elected to the House of Representatives the national debt was $1.1 trillion, 34 percent of the gross domestic product. In 1986, when he was elected to his first term in the Senate the debt was $2.1 trillion, 46 percent of GDP. When he retired in 2017, the debt was $20.2 trillion, 103 percent of GDP. Reid now says the problem is that the rich don’t pay enough in taxes. It is not the spending.
This past week the Treasury Department reported that for the first nine months of this fiscal year, after the Trump tax cuts, revenues increased by 3 percent due to improved economic conditions, but federal spending increased by 7 percent, partly due to interest on the debt.
Speaking of spending, even though Social Security now accounts for nearly a quarter of federal outlays, it was Sen. Reid who in 2011 led a rally with supporters waving signs reading “Back Off Social Security.”
“It’s not just an exaggeration that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy. It is an outright lie,” Reid informed his cheering minions. “Leave Social Security alone. Back off Social Security. It hasn’t contributed a penny, I repeat, to the deficit and it is in great shape for the next many decades.”
In 2015, Reid championed a spending bill that grew the national debt to $20 trillion by ending so-called sequester cuts in spending.
But now the debt is a problem. “I hate to keep saying this but it is true: When I was first elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate and for several years after I was elected to the Senate, the No. 1 issue of the Republican Party was to lower the debt,” Reid told Shad. “We had all kinds of legislation that was passed, sequestration was established, things of that nature. … But anymore, Republicans don’t seem to give a damn about what the debt is. And, frankly, I don’t hear the Democrats raising much hell about it either, and I think that’s a mistake. I think the debt is not sustainable.”
Even though revenues have increased recently, Reid’s answer to ongoing deficits and mounting debt is to tax the rich and ignore the profligate spending.
“The only way we can do this is we have to have more income,” Reid said. “And where is that income going to come from? It can only come from rich people. The middle class, they are not going to be paying amounts of money that make up for what rich people are making. The rich are gonna have to bear the burden and they should.”
We and others of our ilk have replied to this perennial Democratic solution of redistributionism by saying, “It’s the spending, stupid.”
Thomas Mitchell is a former newspaper editor who now writes conservative/libertarian columns for weekly papers in Nevada. You may email Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.