Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thinking about Debt

Here is a key bit from a post by Paul Krugman on his NY Times blog:
People think of debt’s role in the economy as if it were the same as what debt means for an individual: there’s a lot of money you have to pay to someone else. But that’s all wrong; the debt we create is basically money we owe to ourselves, and the burden it imposes does not involve a real transfer of resources.

That’s not to say that high debt can’t cause problems — it certainly can. But these are problems of distribution and incentives, not the burden of debt as is commonly understood. And as Dean says, talking about leaving a burden to our children is especially nonsensical; what we are leaving behind is promises that some of our children will pay money to other children, which is a very different kettle of fish.
The political right has made a career out of packaging up bad politics as reasonable sounding phrases which don't hold up to scrutiny:
  • running government is just like running a business, so the country needs a CEO not a politician

  • government is not the solution, government is the problem

  • the need to put "God back into the nation's schools", and they don't mean the loving Jesus, or Krishna, Odin, or Moloch, they know that God is that white haired old man sitting on a throne up there in the air somewhere, the avenger of the Old Testament, the guy who is the fixer of the political right

  • what America needs is "family values" as laid down by the womanizing, sex-crazed, power hungry politicians of the political right who find time to sit in Congress between screwing their secretaries and divorcing the wives and refusing to pay child support

  • get government off our backs by bringing back Joe McCarthy with his demand of "loyalty oaths", or Goldwater with his decision to bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age with nukes, or Reagan who wanted to stop the limousine liberals from giving money to welfare queens by putting up layer after layer of bureaucratic restriction of aiding the poor while ranting that the problem with government was that it needed to "cut regulations", or the 2000 George Bush who ranted that government had to get out of the business of "nation building" and then he started a couple of trillion dollar wars to bring "democarcy" and "good government" to Afghanistan and Iraq
Debt as a public policy is something that the economists understand but which gets twisted and distorted by right wing politicians into a lie on the same level as the 50 year lie that the United Nations was a front for Communism and that the US should "get out of the UN".

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