Editorial: Former Nevada senator discovers national debt

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.”

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Sam Shad and Harry Reid

Taxation without representation?

Taxation without representation is tyranny, and grounds for a revolution — only many of those being taxed under the Trump federal budget haven’t been born yet.

It is one thing to spend your children’s inheritance. It is another to drive them into debt. We are spending today what they will be earning years from now.

Getty pix

Reportedly, the proposed $4.4 trillion budget for next year will add $7 trillion to the national debt, which is already $20 trillion, over the next decade. Of course, some will argue that is static scoring and doesn’t take into account the additional taxes that should accrue due to the recent tax cuts. Then, neither does it account for possible soaring interest rates on that debt.

Budgeting one’s spending based on the anticipation of a raise is foolhardy.

In 2015 Trump said, “But if we don’t make our nation rich again, we don’t take back our jobs from all these other countries that are ripping us and if we don’t take back our money and we don’t, you know, balance up our budget at least get it damn close and soon we’re not going to have a nation anymore.”

This is the same Trump who the next year who disputed his own comments about the nation defaulting on its debt by saying, “First of all, you never have to default because you print the money.”

Welcome to Zimbabwe.




Who are you going to believe? Obama or your lying eyes?

Standing before a staged backdrop of firefighters and other emergency personnel, Obama predicted doom, gloom and sky falling catastrophe if Congress allows the sequestration his White House designed to actually occur 10 days from now:

“Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. …

“Emergency responders like the ones who are here today — their ability to help communities respond to and recover from disasters will be degraded. Border Patrol agents will see their hours reduced. FBI agents will be furloughed.  Federal prosecutors will have to close cases and let criminals go. Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, which means more delays at airports across the country. Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings. …

“So these cuts are not smart.  They are not fair.  They will hurt our economy.  They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.  This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs.  The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

In the speech this morning, he also repeated the laughable claim that deficits have already been cut $2.5 trillion and we are half way to a goal of a $4 trillion deficit reduction. Of course that requires some voodoo math to arrive at those figures.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

The bottom line is that on the day Obama was inaugurated the federal debt was $10.6 trillion. As of this past week, it was $16.5 trillion.

But somehow the sequestration’s automatic cut of $85 billion — a rounding error in federal spending as many call it, since the federal government spends $10.5 billion a day — will portend death, destruction and brimstone.

Never mind that he recently signed off on $61 billion in federal relief for Hurricane Sandy without so much as blinking an eye.

And while he wailed about “tax loopholes and deductions for the well off,” he also signed the fiscal cliff deal that contained nearly $70 billion in tax breaks and loopholes for wind turbines, Nascar, asparagus growers, Hollywood producers and the makers of electric scooters. That deal also cut the sequestration figure from $109 billion to $85 billion.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Call Obama’s bluff

Obama called a press conference today to tell the GOP he will not negotiate if they try to hold the debt ceiling hostage in exchange for a ransom of spending cuts.

He is bluffing.

He will never cut spending unless conservatives use the threat of a so-called government shutdown to get his attention — witness the results of the fiscal cliff talks, more spending and no cuts to speak of.

He blatantly threatened to delay Social Security checks, as well as payments of veterans’ benefits and pay for active soldiers on duty in war zones.

He is bluffing.

According to The New York Times account, Obama said of Republicans, “They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. … The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.”

No, the 14th Amendment says the debts must be paid. It is all the other stuff that is subject to debate and ransom — entitlements, federal salaries, huge bureaucracies doing things no one needs or wants.

“It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy,” the Times quoted Obama as saying. “It would slow down our growth and tip us into recession. To even entertain the idea of this happening is irresponsible. It’s absurd. … America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up.”

When will the deficits to infinity and beyond bleed the economy dry? During someone else’s presidential term perhaps?

Back in 2006, Obama was singing in the Democratic choir:

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

In 2007 and 2008, he did not even bother to vote on the debt ceiling, though he later pushed trillions in budget busting TARP and bailouts and stimulus spending.

Obama is holding no cards. He is trying to stretch out the game until he can escape and leave this nation’s next generations without so much as the ante.

He is bluffing.

The Times quoted House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio:

“The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. … Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children’s future.”

Boehner and the GOP must demand serious spending cuts as a quid pro quo for raising the debt ceiling. Put it on the table say: Take it or leave it.

Let it be on Obama’s head if the government shuts down and the checks don’t go out. Republicans will be blamed, but that is better than letting the federal government bleed red ink until it is too late to fix.

He is bluffing.