Sometimes Debt Matters, Sometimes Not

Nothing Can Be DoneThis is why I start each day by wanting to take a Xanax and go back to bed. On my video Tea Party Idiot Rant – Up with Chris Hayes, I got a comment from cvdogman. His icon is a charming image of an assault rifle that says, “It’s because I’m black, isn’t it?” It was marginally clever when I first saw it 30 years ago, but now I think it more says, “I’m a racist” and not “I’m a gun lover.” That’s not to say that cvdogman is a racist. What he seems to be is a paintball enthusiast. So I’m going to err on the side of niceness and assume he’s just a kid and doesn’t know any better.

His comment wasn’t offensive. It was an honest question. It’s just… It’s just… Fuck! It’s just that I’ve answered this question slightly more than a million times over the last three years. I’ve heard political activists talk about how it is never over. The education campaign goes on and on. And at this point, I don’t know that I’m up to it. There is a multi-billion dollar industry out there “educating” people to believe things that just aren’t true.

Im no economic or political expert, but isnt a huge and growing debt bad for us? I mean if i spend spend spend and cant pay the bill, im going to collections, garnished wages, etc. but what im getting from you is that its ok to continue down this path.

It is a fair question. So I responded:

You are not the government, but even if you were, most people are way in debt regarding their houses and cars. The amount we are now paying to support the debt is less than it was in 2000. Our debt steadily fell until Reagan. Then it fell under Clinton. Noticing a trend? But yes, there is a time to pay down the debt: when the economy is good. And for the umpteenth time: under Obama the deficit has gotten smaller and smaller. Why are conservatives ONLY concerned about the deficit when a Democrat is in the White House?

But let me get into this a little more. Debt really does not matter. Debt service matters. Let’s suppose that you have a rich uncle who loans you $100 without interest. He says, “Don’t worry when you pay it back.” That debt does not affect your finances. Yes, you certainly should eventually pay your uncle back. And hopefully, you spent that money on a book about computer repair so you can make some money and not on a new paintball gun. But it hardly matters. Next month, your cost of living is exactly the same as it was this month.

People get confused about this stuff. The issue is not the total amount the government owes anyway. The question is: is the economy growing faster than the debt. If it is, that’s great! In fact, that’s how we paid down most of the debt from World War II (until Reagan started spending again). Very few years did we actually take in more money in taxes than we spent. Instead, the economy grew really fast. I discussed this issue in more depth in my article, Sarah Palin Still Terrifies Me. Look there. As I said, I am tired of going over this stuff.

But if I am tried of discussing this basic economics, I am infuriated that I have to discuss this stuff only because a Democrat is in the White House. Look, Democrats in general are a bunch of weak-kneed idiots who are always worried about the debt and deficits. The Democratic Party really is the fiscally conservative party. The Republican Party, and conservatives in general, are only fiscally conservative when they aren’t the ones spending. And when they are spending, they spend on the two most expensive and least economically useful things: military contracts and tax cuts for the rich.

So weary am I! The moment that there is a Republican president, Fox News and Michael Savage will stop talking about debt. And all the good little conservatives will go back to worrying what’s really important to them: war with Iran, White Santa, and the need for more tax cuts for the rich.

But I guess I will just slog through this. “Is a huge and growing debt bad for us?” Well, huge by what standard? Growing by what rate? Bad under what conditions? Sometimes sick patients need more oxygen and sometimes they need less. “Is giving a patient oxygen bad for him?” Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Right now, we should have a bigger deficit. Under Bush Jr, we should have had a smaller deficit. But no conservatives were pulling their hair out about Bush’s tax cuts that ballooned the deficit. So it’s complicated. Cvdogman was right to admit that he was not an economist, but that didn’t stop him from proffering the same old economic lies that conservatives rant about daily now that a Democrat is in the White House.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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