The Norman Transcript

September 7, 2013

Let’s hear the truth about our nation’s deficit

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

So much has been written lately about the nation’s deficit, it’s hard to keep up with the truth.

Much of the discussion is pretty irrational, with so-called authorities repeatedly insisting that the country is headed down the path to ruin unless the U.S. reduces its extravagant government spending.

When asked, the average person agrees with the doomsayers, but most people are unusually misinformed about the nation’s deficit. For example, a survey done in 1996 asked voters whether the budget deficit had gone up or down under Bill Clinton. The deficit had decreased sharply, but a plurality (and a majority of Republicans) replied that it had gone up.

A similar thing occurred this year. In a survey conducted through Google, a majority said the nation’s deficit had increased, with 40 percent saying a lot. Only 12 percent correctly answered that it had gone down. The federal deficit has actually declined for the past four years in a row.

Well, voters are frequently unaware of what’s happening at the nation’s Capitol. So what’s the real harm, you might say. Falsehoods, especially those repeated enough, can persuade politicians to push for inappropriate, if not downright harmful, policies.

In this case, the conventional but detrimental remedy is to cut federal spending.

But reducing government expenditures is precisely the wrong policy when the nation is still slowly recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s. Consider what’s going on in Europe right now. The policy of austerity has been a disaster.

Still, Republicans continue to press for all kinds of counter-productive policies — e.g., the sequester or debt-ceiling votes. And why not? If the economy continues to improve only haltingly under Obama, so much the better for the GOP.

So what do we do?

Economist Paul Krugman and others of his persuasion are not optimistic. We can try to sort out the misinformation and falsehoods, but it’s not easy. Still, he said we must “keep pounding away at the truth ... and hope it breaks though.”

Pretty discouraging, all right.

David R. Morgan