Relax about the debt
Matt Miller explains how he stopped worrying and learned to distrust debt predictions.
As a debt worrywart who devoured one of Pete Peterson's doomsday books on my (first) honeymoon, and who came to Washington to help balance the budget in the 1990s, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to deficit hawkery. But the current panic over the national debt is a little mad. Yes, it's a fine thing that President Obama is naming Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to head up the fiscal commission he'll unveil Thursday. And Republican glee and Democratic fear over the political fallout from trillion-dollar deficits are understandable. But, at least for now, the policy consequences are modest and manageable.
How can I say that? Because even the most debilitating debt is racked up only one year at a time. And that means the staggering $9 trillion in fresh debt that President Obama has projected over the next decade is only a number on paper for the moment. If they came to pass, these levels of debt would be country-wrecking, next-generation-crushing and downright wrong. Is the president's forecast of such debt proof of the White House's unwillingness to lead on hard choices? You betcha. Does it mean we'll actually incur this debt? In a word, no.
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