As I understand things, the big figure debt is mostly in the issuing of government bonds. So the money is owed, if ‘owed’ is the right word, to the owners of those bonds. As much as I might want to play France France Revolution, cancelling these bonds today to make the books look better is probably a bad idea: these bonds are the stable end of the finance market; without these, the prices of gold, guns, bullets, and canned food might go up.
In the longer term, I agree: it would be nice to burn all money, and just get along with each other. I don’t think most of the world is ready for that, but it would be nice to feel we were going in the right direction; which doesn’t seem to be what the doom-o-meter is telling us.
Any real economists out there care to comment? Is the National Debt one of these figures like Moore’s Law, that is used as an indicator just because we can measure it?
The “debt bad” meme has been going around since the Reagan years, but the net result is that spending skyrockets when a Republican is in the White House, and then they demand austerity under Democratic presidents. Remember, congressional republicans were even demanding austerity in 2008, when a massive stimulus was needed and austerity would have pushed us over the cliff into depression.
These “debt clocks” have been going around for years. Their only purpose is to scare you, because umpteen trillion is a big BIG number. But how much is the right amount? How much is too much? The analysis is too complex to fit on a clock.
Austerity fans love to scare people with the slogan that “a baby born today is x-thousand dollars in debt,” which is hogwash. Babies are not responsible for servicing the national debt. Taxpayers are, and the more tax you pay, the bigger your share of debt service. Who pays the most taxes? It sure ain’t babies. It’s the very people who want to scare you into supporting austerity.
Brilliant article, I agree with every word, except “fuck.”
I went back and looked closelier at the “clock” and it’s really an unreadable mess of numbers, isn’t it? A masterpiece of poor data presentation, it almost seems like they’re trying to confuse us instead of elucidating anything. Which numbers are nine digits and which are twelve?
All I took away, really, is that the numbers are spinning really fast, this must be a bad thing. And that’s all the site is meant to convey. (Note also, the debt-to-baby ratio is in there.)
Thank you so much for this link.
totally agree, except I somehow doubt this:
Alternate theory: the people who want to scare you into supporting austerity don’t usually pay a fair (… yes I know) share of taxes, but are those who do or plan to make a shitload of money by ruining public services and taking them over, en passant taking every element of public control out of them (with well-known results in the prison system, public utility, etc.).
One of communism’s biggest blunders was the assumption that putting everything under state control would automagically solve all social problems. The neoliberal bloodsuckers and their austerity clowns are just a mirror image of that fallacy.
The unlimited growth of public debt may, or may not be, a problem. Currently we are running a national experiment in an attempt to determine the answer,
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