I was listening to news radio and heard an update in which the senate majority leader Harry Reid gave his interpretation of events on the debt ceiling negotiation. The part that really got my attention was where he insisted that further committee work would go after those “millionaires and billionaires.”

I wondered, “What is he really saying?” Let’s begin with millionaires and billionaires. Is Reid charging them with having committed some evil? If a person had made a lot of money by force or fraud, then I would agree that disapproval and punishment might be merited. Can we confidently say that rich people, as a class, have committed evils which make them suitable subjects of a public official’s desire to punish?

Why is he so angry? Why does he make these people sound like bad people? Is it the fact that they have quite a bit of money? I suspect he does, too. Indeed, it has been noted that Reid has become a somewhat wealthy man while holding office. Does he impute ill motives or actions to himself by virtue of his possession of resources well above the average?

What if we do think that having a lot of wealth is a sign of moral weakness? Perhaps we believe that having much more money than is needed to live (even live comfortably) represents a bad choice. Even if we think that, does that mean we invest the government with the moral right to appropriate that wealth as needed so as to operate without hard debates about limits on spending? Maybe our only right is the right to have our own opinion of how wealthy people should spend their money.

I think Harry Reid needs to think more about why he’s so morally exercised. Follow the conclusions of that anger and maybe we’ll get down to basic principles. Once we get there we can have a legitimate discussion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Roeda/2260805 Mark Roeda

    You know, if you’re going to suggest that Harry Reid sees millionaires and billionaires as evil, I suggest you supply a quote for evidence. 

    Moreover, while I think it’d be insane to suggest that having wealth is itself a sign of moral weakness (and, c’mon, would anyone really claim that?), let’s at least agree that money equals power.  And, as this blog’s own tagline indicates, power corrupts. 

    • http://blog.acton.org/archives/author/kspence Kenneth Spence

      Sir! “Power tends to corrupt…” Be careful of misquotations–this one brought your argument crashing to the floor

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Roeda/2260805 Mark Roeda

        Really, Ken?  I’m fine with revising my comment: “And, as this blog’s own tagline indicates, power tends to corrupt.”  It seems to me it still works.  In fact, the only way the omission brings my argument “crashing to the floor” is if you assumed my argument was to suggest that wealth necessarily made one evil, but that clearly wasn’t my point since I’d said that such an argument would “be insane.” 

        That said, I’ll take your advice.  Here’s some for you: Be careful of exaggeration. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Roeda/2260805 Mark Roeda

        One more thing.  If you’re going to get indignant about quotes you might also want to take the author of this post to task for not supplying any. 

  • http://euripidestrousers.blogspot.com Ken

    Well, Reid himself is worth somewhere between $2 million and $6 million (2007 data), and as for force and/or fraud…further affiant saith not.