Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Looking at the National Debt

FOX News, as you may know, is considered to be somewhat less than neutral on political issues. Time and again, they have been shown to have a right-wing slant to their stories, and have used their vast media exposure as a counterpoint to the "lamestream media," even as they practice their own unique brand of partisanship.

So when the FOX News website released a story about the true cost of our national debt, you can imagine what it said. Well, you don't have to imagine, because here's a link. And this is what is interesting about it: it's actually a pretty good piece. In fact, with the exception of the final few paragraphs, it steers clear of most politicizing of the issue at hand: the national debt.

Now, to be sure, the national debt is a highly publicized and debated issue in Washington. The GOP has a bad habit of declaring that we need to reduce the national debt whenever they are not saying that we need to create jobs. I've noticed that, whenever they do this, and the Dems try to steer in that direction, the GOP will switch tactics and claim the Dems are ignoring the bigger problem.

To the GOP, I think the national debt symbolizes a job-killing weight on the economy. That's not exactly true, since that debt is held primarily by our own government, countries continue to lend us money, and that debt is not impacting our private sector. It really doesn't do anything to harm job growth at all.

The article in question is about a report that tries to point out, again, that the national debt is not the only issue at hand, and that the real concern are the interest rates. As the article points out, if the interest rates rise too high, it will cost our government even more money to pay them off, meaning it will slow down government spending and so on...you get the idea. The dire warnings are good to hear, but should also be looked at with a bit of logical sense.

First of all, yes, our interest rate is incredibly low, and an increase would be difficult to manage. But this does not mean that the debt is our biggest national issue. In fact, it's not even that big a problem at the moment, since it could be mostly eliminated with a strong economy. In other words, if Washington would just get off its hands and do something to help the economy, the debt would take care of itself. This has been said over and over and over again, and is getting tiresome for people like me who can't stand watching it come to nothing in Congress.

Secondly, the interest rates are likely not going to increase any time soon. Why? Because our own federal reserve has so much influence over the global markets and interest rates. Really, the only way that could happen is if Ben Bernanke and the other leaders at the Fed decided to raise interest rates. Then, we would be in deep trouble. But until that happens, we should be fine with paying the interest on our loans.

Finally, and as I've said so many times before, deficit spending is not only par for the course, it's expected and even helpful in the midst of a recession. Time and time again, economists all around the world have stated that austerity in the name of debt and deficit reduction slows down the economy, and that countries must spend to jump start demand, get the marketplace up and running again, and use that momentum to pay back the debt. We just happen to have a huge debt that was incurred through unfunded wars, major tax breaks, an unpaid-for prescription drug program, bailouts, and stimulus packages. When all is said and done, that money will have to be paid back.

So, is the national debt going to ruin our economy? Is it the reason for the slow rate of recovery? Do we need to fix it before we fix anything else? No, no, and definitely not. It's a fact of life, has been for a loooonnnnggggg time. And you know what? Before this congressional cycle, it's never been used as a cudgel to push for mass austerity and deep tax cuts for the wealthy. If we want to eliminate it, we must do the opposite of these things: spend our way to massive job growth, levy taxes on the wealthy and on tax-cheating businesses, and get the American People back into the habit of working for themselves. Doing that will reduce dependency on government programs, further lowering operating costs for those programs, and will lead to more vibrant economic growth than trying to cut the national debt while ignoring the people. It's simple, yet difficult for Congress to grasp. Let's put aside the partisanship and start working for the people.


samp said...

Good analysis. However, I disagree that spending money we don't have will energize the economy. Congress has spent literally billions and has accomplished nothing in the way of job growth. The uncertainty with this do nothing congress is what's keeping businesses from taking a chance and hiring. i.e. not knowing the full impact of ObamaCare or the tax future. AND I do not believe that a group of elected officials i.e. useless congress will concentrate on anything in an election year but to keep their paid-for (used to be elected) jobs. So, you see spending as the cure for our low job rate? Where? How much? Remember it's taxpayers money.

Chain-thinker said...

You have to look at what we're spending our money on, and it's not programs to stimulate job growth. We're not investing more money in education, infrastructure, health and human services, emergency services, or any other service field. That's where we need to put our money. How much? That depends. I think we could eliminate that pesky unemployment rate in a matter of months if we just invested in infrastructure repairs and upgrades. How about building a high-speed rail system across the country, fixing and expanding the national highway system, improving our power grid, and repairing and upgrading our water system. Those are all projects that are desperately needed, all job-creators, and all expensive. Let's spend the money now to put the people back to work so they'll spend in the marketplace and get the economy moving again. It shouldn't matter that it's the taxpayer's money because it's the taxpayer getting paid, and the taxpayer that's benefiting the most

And one more thing. I will say, again, that demand is the job creator of our economy. A company may feel "uncertain" about our ineffective Congress, but that business will hire if they see a spike in demand. They're not going to let potential sales go because Congress is arguing.