Pelosi, Reid: Divorced From Reality
Leadership: A major poll just gave Congress a favorability rating of 11% — lowest in history. Never, it seems, have our representatives in Washington been so disconnected from the people they purport to serve.
The disconnect was most evident in separate comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a conference of the far-left group Netroots Nation last weekend in Las Vegas. Both weighed in on vital topics. Both revealed why they're so out of touch with reality.
Pelosi told the audience she adamantly opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security and said the Depression-era program shouldn't be cut to help reduce the deficit. "When you talk about reducing the deficit and Social Security, you're talking about apples and oranges," she said.
She has it exactly backward. The No. 1 problem facing this nation is the massive deficit we face over the next 75 years, due almost entirely to the expansion of Social Security and Medicare. The only way to address the deficit is to address entitlements.
Social Security and Medicare trustees estimated last year that the unfunded liability — that is, future expected deficits — of the two programs is $107 trillion, or 7 1/2 times the size of our entire economy. If not addressed immediately, these shortfalls will require a tripling of payroll taxes to 37% by 2054 from 12.4% today.
Governments as diverse as Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, France and Great Britain face similar scary arithmetic and are already lengthening the amount of time workers have to work to get a public pension. They're making other cuts as well.
When the U.S. lags behind reform enacted even by the soft-socialist countries of Europe, it's a sign of how radical and beholden to special interests our Democrat-controlled government has become. To assert, as Pelosi has, that we don't need to alter Social Security in any way is the fiscal equivalent of joining the Flat Earth Society.
Meanwhile, the speaker had the chutzpah — or maybe it was twisted humor — to tell the Netroot folks that Democrats are "moving on all fronts to reduce the deficit."
"Moving on all fronts"? Last we saw — and it's hard to keep up — the U.S. this year is slated to have a deficit of $1.5 trillion, or 10% of GDP, and an additional $1.4 trillion, or 9.2% of GDP, next year. Anticipated deficits, all from Democratic policies, will add $10 trillion to $13 trillion to our national debt over the next decade.
Just Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office again warned that U.S. deficits are "unsustainable." Apparently, the free-spending Democrats don't think so.
In the recent debate over a $35 billion extension of jobless benefits, Republicans merely asked that the bill be paid for with cuts elsewhere — as the Democrats' own pay-go rules, passed earlier this year, require. Democrats refused. Instead, the GOP was slandered as racist and accused of hating poor Americans.
Reid's comments, made to the same Netroot group, were equally absurd — and no doubt offensive to voters.
After his party insisted during more than a year of debate over the health care overhaul that they did not want a single-payer public option, Reid gloated to the Netroot gathering: "We're going to have a public option. It's just a question of when."
As with Pelosi's comments, Reid's fly in the face of what's going on around the world. Europe, in particular, has been forced to face up to its debt problems, and countries there are actively attacking their governments' involvement in health care.
Take Britain, the country most often cited as a model for Obama-Care. The government-run National Health Service is going through massive cuts, and "some of the most common operations — including hip replacements and cataract surgery — will be rationed" to save money, according to Britain's Telegraph.
Meanwhile, the new conservative government is pushing the biggest reform of Britain's health care system since its 1948 founding, with a plan to decentralize the bureaucracy to the local level.
Nor does Reid, like Pelosi, get that Social Security is in a deep crisis. He called it "the most successful social program in the history of the world." Successful? A program that socks future generations with trillions in higher taxes and lower standards of living? A program that's already running in the red and whose unsustainable finances promise to push the U.S. to the verge of bankruptcy?
The arrogance of Reid's and Pelosi's remarks underscore the problems that the Democrats have with the electorate. They promised moderation and fiscal responsibility. Instead, we got a radical expansion of government power — with trillions of dollars in spending, thousands of pages of costly regulations, a government takeover of vast swaths of the private economy and deficits stretching into the future as far as our best forecasts can see.
The country has seen what arrogant, untrammeled rule looks like. And as the polls show, it doesn't care for it at all.