Fiscal Responsibility is a Two-Way Street

Fiscal Responsibility is a Two-Way Street


“We can only turn the page from recession to recovery if we watch every single taxpayer dollar the way families watch every dollar in their budget.”

Who said this? A fiscal conservative appalled at the unrestrained level of spending coming out of congress? Nope. It was the estimable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposing a decrease in the estate tax rate (WSJ editorial here).

The estate tax debate aside, Reid’s comments left me laughing, then crying, then irritated enough to blog about the hypocrisy on display. Apparently, in Reid’s world, “watching every single tax dollar” only applies to those dollars coming in and not at all to those going out. If Reid had shown even a passing interest in restraining some of the profligacy on display in Washington, then maybe he’d have a right to complain about plans to remove revenue. But he’s been happy to guide all manners of spending through the Senate with hardly a flinch.

I know many economists support spending during a recession. And I’m not against well-target deficit spending during this period of economic distress. But many Democrats seem to think the more we spend, the better off we’ll be. It’s as if there’s no concept of the law of diminishing returns. Does Reid really think that by opposing tax decreases he’s being fiscally responsible? As if there’s enough tax revenue in the world to pay for the level of spending underway.

To make this screed complete, let me add that, as much as the cluelessness of politicians like Reid frustrates me, I’m equally irritated by the large percentage of so-called conservatives who’ve decided to turn their opposition into a circus of inanities, offering trumped-up or fabricated reasons to scream and shout rather than offering reasonable counter-proposals to combat the over-spending. I know it’s fashionable to use spiteful hyperbole to oppose a sitting president, but it’s meritless. In serious times, we could use a few less clowns.

Okay. I’m done.

  • gerryf

    No, feel free. Continue.

    Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that it is necessary to spend money in a recession in order to keep the economy moving, but a great deal of what we’ve seen is careless spending. The craziness over “earmarks” doesn’t warrant the outcry it received (especially when some of the loudest voices were some of the worst offenders in most years), but it was a deep disappointment.

    The Democrats had an opportunity to wrest the “fiscal conservative” agenda out of the GOP’s hands forever and they blew it. A targeted, careful budget would have been refreshing, but instead they opted to feed at the trough as if they had been denied anything during the Bush years (simply not true, the Dems were just as piggish as the REpubs).

    Color me disappointed.

  • TerenceC

    Harry Reid made that comment during the debate on the lower death tax rate. There are atleast 2 sides to every political issue and economic depression aside the death tax is not fair. There is a multitude of economic moves that someone can make while they are alive to protect their estate especially when a business is involved.

    I have no empathy for a Paris Hilton that gets whacked with a huge inheritance tax – what has she ever done to deserve that sum of money other than have been in the right place at the right time? The richest 1 percent of Americans currently hold wealth worth $16.8 trillion, nearly $2 trillion more than the bottom 90 percent. This level of economic disparity is not only unhealthy for the US economy it helps to cement a strata of economic aristocracy in the US that is anathema to the founders intent.

    Government spending during periods of severe economic decline is a sound policy to insure economic recovery. The problem I have with the current dispersals from Washington is two fold. First, where exactly is all this money going and why? Second, who are the individuals that will benefit most through these dispersals (specifically) and is all this money simply shoring up the upper 1% without any thought given to the majority 99% that stand to lose the most.

    I agree Alan, it is hypocrisy in the finest Washington tradition. I firmly believe that the term fiscal conservative and Washington insider (read elected representative) are mutually exclusive. Those who claim to be fiscal conservative have proven to be nothing close. Those who you would expect to spend like drunken sailors are doing that exact thing but hiding behind the severe economic crisis to rationalize their behavior. All parties involved have done little to nothing to insure any level of accountability or public integrity. It strikes me as nothing more than massive theft but no one seems to know by whom except for some arbitrary comment of “Congress”.

  • Blue Neponset

    There are atleast 2 sides to every political issue and economic depression aside the death tax is not fair.

    Sure it’s fair. The Estate/Gift tax is basically a transfer tax. The person receiving the inheritance or gift didn’t earn the money. If they had it would be taxed. Why is it unfair to tax money you earn and not money you receive as a gift?

  • kranky kritter

    The sad truth is that the estate tax as it is currently applied is a loophole-ridden joke. The truly wealthy are capable of evading it at a lawyer-aided slow jog. Most folks in the lower 2/3 or 3/4 assests-wise don’t pay it. It should either be reformed to prevent easy evasion by the wealthy, or dumped. As it currently is, I think it’s hard to defend.

    BTW, death tax is a less accurate way to describe it than estate tax. You don’t get taxed because you died. The estate you leave gets taxed if it’s big enough and you lacked the foresight and legal counsel to manage your way round the laws.

    100% agreed Alan. If I were a Republican, I would simply keep a copy of Harry Reid saying this handy on my ipod. And then I would play it in the halls of congress on every single occasion when the sentiment was applicable. Actually, I would do this even if I was a Democrat, because Reid is a clown, and not enough people see his red nose and big shoes.

  • TerenceC

    Blue – It continues the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few who – by and large – have done nothing to earn it – that’s the difference I see.