At a recent meeting of the Senate Budget Committee, Bernie Sanders showed off his newfound concern over the nation’s fiscal health. Meet Bernie Sanders, born-again deficit hawk.
“It is not surprising that my Republican colleagues would be pushing legislation that would give tax breaks to the very rich,” he bellowed, “but I really do have a hard time understanding how they are prepared to vote for legislation that would increase the deficit by some $1.4 trillion.”
Bernie Sanders doesn’t know the difference between deficit and debt
Sanders, as he often is, was quite incorrect here, in that he confuses the deficit, the annual governmental revenue shortfall, with the nation’s overall debt. Nobody had projected that the tax bill will produce a $1.4 trillion annual deficit, but rather that it could potentially add $1.4 trillion to the debt over the course of a decade. That’s not a sure thing, as it’s predicated on the idea that a population with a lower tax burden will function precisely as it functioned with higher taxes. Far more likely is the possibility that more economic freedom will produce more economic growth, which will result in a commensurate increase in federal tax revenues.
But for the sake of argument, let us honor Bernie’s sudden conversion to fiscal conservatism and concede the possibility that this tax bill may very well put us into the hole by a trillion-and-a-half more dollars over a decade’s time. How big a problem would that be?
Those who insist, Sanders-like, that $1.5 trillion in deficit spending over a decade is fiscal irresponsibility run amuck are likely to be the very same people who didn’t bat an eye when President Obama dumped a trillion dollars down the black hole of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was designed to keep unemployment below 8% and failed miserably. They were also strangely quiescent as the Obama administration added an expensive new entitlement to the nation’s financial obligations and, over the course of eight years, drowned the nation $12 trillion dollars of new red ink.
Despite constantly calling for increased spending, Sanders suddenly cares about the deficit
Now, granted, Bernie has never claimed to be a calculus professor, but he should be able to recognize that $12 trillion in debt accumulated in eight years is significantly larger than $1.5 trillion accumulated in ten. But perhaps not, and there is some genuine physiological mental defect at work here. How else to explain Bernie’s own proposals during the 2016 presidential campaign, which were estimated to add a staggering $21 trillion in new debt to the nation’s bottom line over the same decade that the Republicans are supposedly throwing fiscal caution to the wind?
This is not to suggest that $1.4 trillion in new debt is no big deal, or that Republicans aren’t often guilty of gross hypocrisy in trying to justify misguided policy proposals. Rather, it’s a recognition that partisan outrage over deficit spending inversely correlates with the cause of the deficit in question.
And in the case of Bernie Sanders, despite his crocodile tears, his hypocritically phony pretense of fiscal responsibility isn’t fooling anyone.
(Photo of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaking at a town meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona by Gage Skidmore)