Montana Politics

Putting the National Debt in Perspective

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As the debate continues over deficit spending in Washington, I thought it might be useful for everybody involved to take a quick look at this here list. It lists public debt as a percentage of GDP. While not a perfect measure of a country’s budget health, it is probably among the most useful.

What does the list reveal? Topping the list is Japan, which given the past two decades is not surprising. But the US is in better shape than the global average, including such economic heavyweights as the UK and Germany.

Granted, a decade of deficit spending is not good- we’ve been living beyond our means since electing George Bush, and only part of that deficit is from the wars. And unlike JC at 4&20 (who is nonetheless hosting an interesting conversation on the matter), I agree with Jon Tester that we can afford to make some responsible cuts. Indeed, now that there is finally some public sentiment beyond it, perhaps we can cut some inefficiencies that til now have been sacred, like cold-war era military deployments that merely engender mistrust from the host countries.

But I don’t trust that this is the actual intention of Republicans. Republicans like Boehner and Coobs (see any of his prognostications about 2012) believe that defeating Obama in 2012 is more important than improving the economy. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when a Republican was in the oval office, increased federal spending and government employment was used to pad an otherwise weak job recovery, but now that it is a Democratic is president, Republicans are looking to sabotage fledgling job growth that threatens to derail their plans to take control of the White House and Senate in 2012.

The verdict – ‘responsible cuts’ are always beneficial during periods of deficit spending, and may actually be possible now. But our backs are far from up against the wall credit-wise, and the most important thing is to allow the economy to recover before tackling the revenue and spending issues that have reversed our one-time surplus.

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The Polish Wolf

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