Powered by Blogger

Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Nobody understands debt"

Paul Krugman wrote a terrific essay about the US debt - short and plain spoken and illuminating.  In it, he says national debt is NOT like personal debt - much of the debt is money we owe ourselves (that is, taxpayers), and while we do owe money to other nations, they also owe money to us. Furthermore, economic growth makes debt less burdensome; case in point - we never paid back the money we borrowed to fight WWII, but that debt doesn't really affect us anymore. Here's the last couple of paragraphs:

. . . the fact that federal debt isn’t at all like a mortgage on America’s future doesn’t mean that the debt is harmless. Taxes must be levied to pay the interest, and you don’t have to be a right-wing ideologue to concede that taxes impose some cost on the economy, if nothing else by causing a diversion of resources away from productive activities into tax avoidance and evasion. But these costs are a lot less dramatic than the analogy with an overindebted family might suggest.

And that’s why nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe.

. . . Of course, America, with its rabidly antitax conservative movement, may not have a government that is responsible in this sense. But in that case the fault lies not in our debt, but in ourselves.



Post a Comment

<< Home