Prominent Myths about Our National Debt


As the 2016 presidential election contest begins to heat up, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and its outreach arm, Fix the Debt, have issued a new “Fiscal FactChecker: 16 Budget Myths to Watch Out For in the 2016 Campaign.”  Here are four of the major myths:

  • We Can Continue Borrowing Without Consequences. “Low interest rates are a temporary consequence of the struggling global economy and near term Federal Reserve actions – not a permanent fixture.”


  • There is No Harm in Waiting to Solve Our Debt Problems. “The longer policy makers wait to control debt, the more difficult it will become. For example, reducing debt to around the historical average of about 40% of GDP by 2040 would require tax increases or spending cuts of about 2.6% of GDP per year, if enacted today, or starting at $1,450 per person per year. Waiting a decade to begin would require adjustments of over 4% of GDP.”
  • Deficit Reduction is Code for Austerity, Which Will Harm the Economy. “Most advocates of fiscal responsibility in the U.S. have called for gradual reductions in long-term deficits so that the debt grows slower than the economy. These changes tend to have minimal near-term effects as well as the potential to significantly grow the size of the economy over the long term.”
  • We Can Fix the Debt Solely by Taxing the Top 1%. “The top 1% of earners, households that make at least $450,000 annually, earn a substantial share of national income, about 13% on an after tax basis, and further tax increases on this group could help. But these increases would need to be combined with reductions in spending growth and/or broader tax increases to fully address the nation’s fiscal challenges.”

Just a few days ago, I described a persuasive argument, “America’s Fourth Revolution,” that our hyper-partisan and dysfunctional political system will be unable to rectify our debt problem until we have another and much more severe financial crisis. The above discussion of budget myths from CRFB actually suggests a way forward to solve our debt problem.
We have a choice. Which path will we take?

How Do We Fight Economic Inequality? By Restoring Growth!

The liberal economist Paul Krugman returns to one of his favorite topics in yesterday’s New York Times, “Why Inequality Matters”.  “On average, Americans remain a lot poorer today than they were before the economic crisis.  For the bottom 90 percent of families, this impoverishment reflects both a shrinking economic pie and a declining share of that pie.”  The problem with Mr. Krugman’s analysis is that he offers no solution beyond more fiscal stimulus: “the premature return to fiscal austerity has done more than anything to hobble the recovery.”
CaptureBut there is another route to recovery and it is propounded in today’s Wall Street Journal by George Osborne, the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, “How Britain Returned to Growth”. “We cut spending and top tax rates, and now deficits are down and jobs are being created at a healthy clip … at the rate of 60,000 per month, roughly equivalent to 300,000 in the U.S. … The corporate tax rate is being cut to 20% from 28%. … As a result, more international firms are moving their headquarters to Britain and investment is flowing into our country.”
Yes, as Mr. Krugman says, economic inequality in the U.S. is bad and getting worse.  The question is what to do about it.  Shall we try to improve the situation with artificial stimulation, increasing government debt, already very high, for future generations?  Or shall we address this inequality by encouraging businesses to grow and expand and thereby raise wages and hire more people.
The good news is that America is the success story of the 20th century.  The bad news is that everyone else in the world has figured this out and is now copying our own best methods.  Either we can compete, innovate, stay on top and thrive, or else we can get lazy, stagnate and sink down in the pack.
Will it be more inequality or more growth?  The choice is up to us!