What Everyone Should Know About Budget Deficits and Public Debt

We are subjected constantly to threatening talk by politicians and media personalities about budget deficits and public debt. Budget surpluses, or at least balanced budgets, are touted as fiscally responsible, whereas deficits are painted as burdensome and unsustainable. This framing of the debate appears to be bearing fruit for the 1 percent it is intended to serve. For instance, a recent American survey reveals that almost half those polled opposed an increase in the debt ceiling to facilitate deficit spending while a further third of respondents indicated uncertainty on the issue. This is despite concern among respondents over what a refusal to raise the debt ceiling would mean for the economy. This suggests that people do not necessarily oppose the deficit spending other than for the supposed “affordability” issues they think it poses. In reality, financial affordability is not an issue for currency-issuing governments and there is nothing inherently responsible in balancing the budget. To the contrary, such a move would be burdensome in the extreme, as well as unsustainable. Particularly at a time of high joblessness and underemployment, efforts to reduce rather than increase the deficit are the height of irresponsibility.

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