Poll: Most Americans Oblivious About Our Falling Deficit

In a 2009 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 8 in 10 Americans said they were concerned about the federal deficit and growing national debt.

So, good news: Annual budget deficits are plunging, falling by half in the last three years:

Source: Office of Budget and Management, Congressional Budget Office. 2013 = current + most recent estimate of remainder of the year.

In an odd twist, however, most Americans seem oblivious to this progress.

A recent Google consumer survey asked the question, "How do you think the US Federal Government's yearly budget deficit has changed since January 2010?" With 665 responses from around the country spanning a wide variety of demographics, here's what it found:

The deficit falls by half, and more than half of respondents think it increased.

This is nothing new. During California's budget battle in 2011, the LA Times wrote: "Some 75% of respondents said they were following the [California] budget debate, yet only 16% were aware that state spending has shrunk by billions of dollars over the last three years."

Or take this, from a 2010 Pew Research survey:

Overall, 39% of the public knows that the government spends more on national defense than on education, Medicare or interest on the national debt. About one-in-four (23%) say the government spends more on interest payments and 15% say Medicare is the largest expenditure of these four alternatives. Government accounting estimates indicate that the government spends about twice as much on defense as on Medicare, and more than four times as much on defense as on interest on the debt.

One of the most consistent states of confusion revolves around foreign aid, as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler points out:

A Nov. 30 poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that, when people were asked what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, the average response was 27 percent. (The real number is about 1 percent.) The estimates were essentially the same for Democrats, Republicans and independents.

As Will Rogers put it, "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." 

If you're interested in the government's finances, check out my report, "Everything You Need to Know About the National Debt." It walks you through with step-by-step explanations about how the government spends your money, where it gets tax revenue from, the future of spending, and what a $16 trillion debt means for our future. Click here to read it. 


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  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 9:59 AM, LotinElite wrote:

    So we pick a starting point that just so happens to be the highest deficit in history (more than triple any previous deficit) and then marvel that the deficit has shrunk from such a lofty all-time high?

    This despite the fact that this years "shrunken" deficit is still much higher than any prior to 2009.

    What is your point?

    It is interesting that you highlight a misinformed public while writing an article that is basically misinformation. While your claims are technically true, they are clearly disingenuos.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 10:03 AM, CluckChicken wrote:

    Would say that this is a shock but 19% of Americans believe they are among the top 1% earners.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 10:09 AM, CluckChicken wrote:

    "This despite the fact that this years "shrunken" deficit is still much higher than any prior to 2009.

    What is your point?"

    His point is pretty obvious. Though most of America says the deficit is very important they have no idea what is happening with it.

    Not everything has to have a political take.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 12:20 PM, ryanalexanderson wrote:

    I wonder what proportion of the public interchangeably uses the words 'Deficit' and 'Debt'.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 12:20 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ Unfortunately, the diversion from one of the two truly important points, namely that we have had huge record deficits for quite a number of years and we continue to dig the hole deeper is not really very helpful.

    The fact that a majority of the population dont pay enough attention is part of the problem. That they are late to the party and at least this time are on the correct side of the issue, even though their understanding is wrong, might be a benefit.

    AT LEAST we are now going the right direction. That however is not enough, and given that you are part of the generation that will be oppressed with this heavy load, Morgan, I am quite surprised you don't emphasize that fact (its not enough).

    A better service to yourself, those of your contemporaries that have to bear this burden, and your readers would be to show the whole progression of oh, maybe 2000 -2013. This should be the shocker- just how far off track we got, not how little people pay attention. And I bet you could find the survey from a few years back where people were equally wrong just on the opposite side of the facts- they thought the deficit was shrinking or stable while it was getting out of hand.

    Now there's a thesis, people pay attention when it gets really bad and then presume nothing has changed, which in this case may in fact be true, since we still have a deficit we cant afford in the long run because the hole has been dug so deep...maybe next year will be better?

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 3:19 PM, Johny205 wrote:

    The national debt is still close to $17 trillion dollars! If interest rates start rising, it will be interesting to see what the U.S. can afford after interest rates triple. We already use about 40% of our money for debt service. Our national debt is equivalent to a family having $160,000 in credit card debt!

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 3:25 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<We already use about 40% of our money for debt service.>>

    I mean this respectfully, but this quote perfectly sums up the point of the article.

    From the Office of Budget Management :

    2012 tax revenue: $2.45 trillion

    2012 net interest payments on national debt: $220 billion.

    Debt service is less than 10% of federal revenue.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/historicals

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 3:41 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<I wonder what proportion of the public interchangeably uses the words 'Deficit' and 'Debt'.>>

    This is so true. You would not believe how many people I have met who think we paid off the National debt in the 90s when we had budget surpluses.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:20 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    <I mean this respectfully but this quote perfectly sums up the point of the article.....Debt service is less than 10% of federal revenue>

    Well, Morgan that depends on your definition of "debt service". You are using interest only as your definition, and some people would agree with that for the government as they expect NO principal payment and an infinite term for debt. Most standard definitions, including the one in Investopida define "Debt service" as interest and Principal payments due.

    Its ok with me if you want to argue the one side of the issue, though I could use your quote against you.....BUT you and your descendants will be stuck with the outcome. I will be long gone.

    AND!!! as you have previously so ably pointed out, but failed to repeat in this article, when interest rates "normalize" (whatever that is) the net interest payments will be substantially greater.

    THEN the piper will have to be paid, at likely (who knows for sure) much higher percentages of the tax receipts. This is not all rainbows and roses...

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:28 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    We don't use "our money" to retire old debt. It's replaced with new debt. Been this way for more than a century.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:37 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ and as long as its a reasonable % of our economy and creditors allow it because they believe they will get their money back, this will continue. Get out of line and then you have...a bad situation.

    You might also have informed your readers that despite "Great progress" the rapidly declining deficit is STILL worse than any year before 2010 in either real or adjusted for inflation terms. Cmon Morgan- out with the facts- 2000- 2009 deficits all LESS than 2010 by a lot!

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:42 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<deficit is STILL worse than any year before 2010 in either real or adjusted for inflation terms>>

    2013 deficit is on track to be 4% of GDP. It averaged 5.1% of GDP from 1982-1985.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:44 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    Just a sample to show you what I mean: FY 2013 deficit $642 B, FY 2008 Deficit $459 B... one of the worst of the preceding years...

    In fact, 2013 would be a record if it were not for the outrageous deficits of 2010, 2011, 2012 to make it look better...

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:46 PM, FoolishLonghorn wrote:

    "I wonder what proportion of the public interchangeably uses the words 'Deficit' and 'Debt'."

    ------------------

    Exactly!!!

    Every year the deficit is great than zero, we have increased the national debt.

    In other words, in 2010 we added 1.3 trillion to the national debt. In 2013, we will only add 642 billion to the debt.

    Given that the US has about 316 million citizens, we only added about $2000 more in debt per person last year.

    Hardly a reason to celebrate.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 4:46 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    Yes, but the poll didn't ask whether people thought the deficit was large, or if it was a record prior to 2010, or how it looked compared to previous years adjusted for inflation. It asked specifically what direction it moved in from 2010 to today. And most got it wrong.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 6:02 PM, SMFT wrote:

    @ Skepic1

    Just how quickly do you imagine the U.S. economy turns? It's like an oil tanker, man. 2010 deficit? Results from decisions made 6, 8, heck - 10 or more years earlier.

    Specifically? Tax cuts simultaneous with unfunded spending programs and two unfunded wars.

    Halving the deficit in 4 years? I think it is a heck of an accomplishment. Especially in light of the fact that some fairly aggressive stimulus spending continued into this period.

    Not that I think there was much in the way of actual policy-making that caused it to happen, other than deciding to stop spending $70B per month in Iraq and Afghanistan. Otherwise, it was the natural economic cycle as our economy healed and revenues recovered.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 6:22 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    email me when the deficit gets to 2% of GDP or better yet when we have a surplus. THEN I will be impressed....

    And to your point, SMFT I do not imagine things turn very fast, which is exactly why I am so excited about the urgency of doing better, soon. now. no waiting....

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 7:19 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    Morgan, the problem is (and at least one person has ironically demonstrated it in the comments), people just do not understand the distinction between the annual deficit, on the one hand, and on the other hand: the cumulative debt. They accordingly think the annual deficit has increased because the cumulative debt has.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 8:46 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    TheDumMoney et. al.

    I think the problem is deeper than distinctions between deficit and debt. As the LA Times, Pew and other quotes in the article show, there's a history of disconnect between budget facts and reality.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2013, at 8:47 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    Sorry, I mean budget perception and reality.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 1:12 AM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<I think the problem is deeper than distinctions between deficit and debt. As the LA Times, Pew and other quotes in the article show, there's a history of disconnect between budget facts and reality. >>

    Honestly, from my experience that is the biggest disconnect I've run into with people. Granted I don't hang around to many economists and bankers, but among the people I do know I'd say 1 in 5 understood the difference between the two. I don't know how large the survey was or how it was conducted, but if you go out into the public and ask people something like " did you know we never paid off the debt incurred under the Reagan administration?" You will be amazed how often you hear the reply " I thought we had a surplus under Clinton?" It really is a prevailing misunderstanding.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 1:44 AM, Libertarian71 wrote:

    Every time I read a Morgan Housel article about budgetary matters, I feel as if The Motley Fool has suddenly been taken over and become a State-controlled news agency.

    Recently, the gross federal debt-to-GDP ratio reached over 100%. No word from Morgan about that. I guess the Establishment Media didn't take a public poll on that little factoid. Instead we get the spin above. Yes, revenues are up a little because of the recent tax increase, and spending was "cut" about 3% due to the sequestration (about which, by the way, Morgan was crying Chicken Little back in February). But this is not meaningful.

    Make no mistake. Notwithstanding Morgan's implication to the contrary, there is a federal Leviathan. It indeed exists. Its rule is marked by an overbearing overseas military Empire abroad, a predatory Surveillance State at home, and a bevy of unsustainable entitlement programs.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 8:33 AM, jackcrow wrote:

    Awful article. There are some things that can be done with Fool brevity and some that shouldn't be done. This article is so bad I can't tell if this one of those topics or not.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 9:46 AM, Johny205 wrote:

    The thing about it is this: none of this accounts for the U.S. "unfunded obligations" such as Social Security and Medicare/Medicade. If you account for these we are about 30 trillion underfunded for SS and about 70 trillion underfunded for medicare/medicade. For a grand total of about $100 trillion. This is way worse than the $17 trillion national debt and unless they are reformed we are screwed.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 9:51 AM, TMFHousel wrote:
  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 10:02 AM, astuber9 wrote:

    I have to agree with Skepikl. The tone of the article sounds like "the debt is not that bad and improving despite what the ignorant public thinks." At some point we need to start running a surplus to make up for the enormous amount of total debt. You Keynesians often forget that he advocated for austerity when you have decent growth. You may not like the current GDP growth but welcome to the New Normal. We better get used to it and stop spending money.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 10:15 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<The tone of the article sounds like "the debt is not that bad and improving>>

    An article's "tone" is purely the perception of the reader. There's nothing in this article that indicates in any way that I feel the debt is "not that bad."

    I've written dozens of articles on the size of the debt in context, where it's headed at current trends, and the largest risk factors. To sum up: It's sustainable at today's interest rates, won't be later in the future, particularly if rates rise faster than GDP growth, and Medicare is the biggest threat. But not a single person has a reputable track record of forecasting budgets more than about six months out, so every threat, forecast, and trend has to be taken with a giant grain of salt.

    Those who choose to make up a narrative of how they think I feel are welcome to do so, but it often bears no resemblance to reality.

    Thanks for reading,

    Morgan

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 11:08 AM, SkepikI wrote:

    ^ Ok Morgan, had you concluded your article with the sentence begining "To sum up:" AND shown the awful progression of surpluses to deficits starting in oh say 2000, I would have been a lot less critical.

    And then there is the problem of the economist "blind spot" which never seems to get a mention at MF- you know, all government spending is good..... No matter if its totally wasted or lit on fire, let alone used to fund crooks who leverage it to take advantage of productive citizens...like Solyndra, Solopower, GM (GM + 16 B, Taxpayer - 16B) we should feel privileged if its merely spent on useless stuff, instead of funding our future attackers (IMHO) Egypt 1.5 B.

    These are just some of the awful problems we are perpetuating by the caviler disregard of our "Sustainable Deficits" To adapt a quote Morgan (from you I think) - they are sustainable until they are not.

    STILL, I do appreciate your attempts to educate the uneducated and unwatchful, I just wish you would do it all the way....

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 11:15 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<you know, all government spending is good>>

    I challenge you to find one person who has ever said.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 1:15 PM, LyfordJr wrote:

    "An article's "tone" is purely the perception of the reader."

    An article's "tone" is the creation of its author. It can certainly be mis-perceived, but if a lot of people have the same mis-perception, you might want to re-read and figure out why.

    "There's nothing in this article that indicates in any way that I feel the debt is "not that bad." "

    If your readers largely think that the deficit is a serious problem, any article whose main point is that it's falling more than people think, in which the size of the current deficit is referred to as "progress" to which people are "oblivious," where you use the term "good news" when referring to the deficits as "plunging," that is going to sound like, "hey, it's not that bad." Even if you don't use those specific words.

    It is certainly true that people can read attitudes into works that weren't intended, but if I had a large number of frequent readers who perceived a certain bias in my work, I'd have to assume that either a) they're all too ignorant to understand what I'm saying or b) something is slipping through that I'm not intending.

    As a frequent reader, it's fair to say that I have formed the impression, rightly or wrongly, that you are far less concerned by the size and scope of the Federal Government than I am. Other comments to this article make it clear that I'm not the only one to have formed this impression.

    And this article absolutely contributes to that perception.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 1:20 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    As a rule of thumb, it's safe to assume that everything I actually write is something I mean, and anything I don't write but a reader perceives I meant to write is a function of their own bias.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 1:57 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<if I had a large number of frequent readers who perceived a certain bias in my work, I'd have to assume that either a) they're all too ignorant to understand what I'm saying or b) something is slipping through that I'm not intending. >>

    I'm going to go with option C) their reading the article BECAUSE they are biased. Howard Stern used to get fired from radio shows left and right because of complaining listeners until advertisers realized that people that hate him spend more time listening to his show then people who like him. There are plenty of deficit hawks that actively search for articles about national debt to find reassurance from common believers, and to fight with those who disagree.

    I freely admit I follow Morgan's article for similar reasons.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 2:49 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    <I challenge you to find one person who has ever said.>

    Oh, Oookay Morgan, you got me there.. caught me with my shields down and hyperbole up..

    However, hyperbole aside, I find it exceedingly rare in the publications of MF, for you or others to be as interested in what we waste, direct to crooks, or shower on "private" business that ought to pay their own way as you appear to be in what looks to you like progress....

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 2:54 PM, TMFHousel wrote:
  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 2:57 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    kyleleeh +1

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 2:58 PM, TheDumbMoney wrote:

    +1 kyleleeh

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 4:10 PM, astuber9 wrote:

    Kyleleeh -1.

    The Howard Stern comparison is way off. First of all Morgan is not that popular and also most of us think Morgan's writing is interesting and thought provoking. We might disagree on some points and want to clarify how he interprets certain numbers/data, but the majority of us do not read the articles because we completely disagree and get our kicks from going off in the comments. Kudos for reading something that is totally opposed to your viewpoints but doesn't it get old after awhile?

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 4:33 PM, VitamanD wrote:

    Great article Morgan. I always enjoy reading your work and appreciate that you read the comments too (and reply to them).

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 4:52 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    @astuber9

    I actually follow Morgan because I do agree with him. And while Howard may be popular now he was unknown outside of New York when advertisers realized that the people who hate him listen to his show the most. That's the main point I'm trying to make, people are drawn to articles they disagree with, they have made up their mind before they even read what the author wrote, not because of the "tone" of the article as some people here have suggested. They already decided about the "tone" before the page even loaded.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 10:14 PM, abcorrection wrote:

    Dear Morgan, your statement that

    "So, good news: Annual budget deficits are plunging, falling by half in the last three years:"

    is both WRONG and MISLEADING.

    That thew deficit is shrinking but still there could not reasonably called "good news".

    GOOD NEWS would be that the deficit has been reduced to zero, and REALLY GOOD NEWS would be that we achieved a surplus in place of a deficit, and are starting to use that surplus to reduce the national debt.

    To argue a different opinion is an offense to truth and honesty (a bad intention) or a lack of judgement (maybe good intention, but a lack of understanding.

    I would have liked to be less polemic, but your stubborn defending your "good news" statement brought me to this answer.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 10:40 PM, NotJesseL wrote:

    It's good news that deficits are plunging, but if my debt stood at 7 times my income, I would be very worried. 17 trillion divided by 2.45 trillion. Also never mentioned in this discussion are whatever hard assets the US could sell to pay off debt. I have no idea what that number would be. Another number we don't hear about is what is the average interest rate on the national debt. I'm a Fool that would like to know.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2013, at 11:41 PM, kyleleeh wrote:

    <<That thew deficit is shrinking but still there could not reasonably called "good news". >>

    That's just asinine to suggest that improvements are not good news until they become a perfect situation. In fact this kind of thinking is exactly why so many investors buy high and sell low...because they don't notice when the tides are shifting until it's already over.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 7:56 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<Also never mentioned in this discussion are whatever hard assets the US could sell to pay off debt.>>

    Any organization with an indefinite lifespan doesn't have to pay off its debt. Old debt is replaced with new debt. What matters is the carrying cost of its debt. Ford has been in debt for over a century and it'll never be debt-free. Same for countries, particularly those with their own currency. This is why all the "if the government were a household" comparisons are meaningless. The government isn't a household.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 7:57 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<That thew deficit is shrinking but still there could not reasonably called "good news".>>

    Let's say your husband or wife has terminal cancer. One day the doctor comes in and says, "Good news. The tumor declined in size by half, which none of us expected a few months ago. We're making good progress."

    Would you A) Be happy, or B) turn to the doctor and say, "STOP LYING. IT DOESN'T MATTER. BIG DEAL. WHAT'S YOUR POINT?!?!?!"

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 8:01 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    There's also a point here that during the 2012 presidential election, a big Republican point was that Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, which he didn't. (See here: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/...

    Now that the deficit has been cut in half, the response is, So what?

    There are some people who will always just be angry regardless of the objective situation.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 8:56 AM, Chilaw wrote:

    Morgan,

    Great article! Incidentally, the same public misperceptions happen with crime. Over the past few decades, polls have showed majorities of people believing that crime was on the rise, when, in fact, it was on the decline.

    I would suggest some of the same factors are at work: fear, politics, sensationalistic journalism, and perhaps a natural lag time between facts and perceptions. Since declining deficits are inconsistent with the anti-government narrative of the tea party folks, it will take some time for those on the right-wing to accept this.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 10:06 AM, PanchoAlmeja wrote:

    First, thank you all for such a civil discussion (for the most part). This is probably the first blog-type discussion that required me to do some research to validate my previous understanding of the national debt and deficit and some of the points presented here. Again thank you all, I feel almost knowledgeable.

    Having said that, I wish that these discussions stop trying to make the authors "look bad", it serves no real purpose. He is simple reporting on the conclusions of a few polls. It seems that some readers are trying to poke holes on the story by creating their own rhetoric. I think his point was clear: Most Americans are oblivious about our current deficit, that’s it.

    Is deficit reduction good news? It's certainly not bad news. Are we there yet? Maybe not, but we need to start that journey somehow.

    I have a question: Even in the 90s national debt did not decrease. Why was that if we had a deficit surplus?

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 11:17 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<I have a question: Even in the 90s national debt did not decrease. Why was that if we had a deficit surplus?>>

    Debt held by the public went down. Total debt -- which includes debt held by intragovernmental trust funds -- went up because cash from surpluses was used to purchase special-issue Treasury bonds for Social security trust funds. It would be like if I took $100 paycheck and sold myself a $100 bond, owed to myself. Looks like my debt went up but from an accounting standpoint I'm richer.

    Here's an explanation:

    "The discrepancy between the two concepts of federal debt in these years occurred because of program surpluses and the rapid growth of reserves held by the various trust fund accounts, such as Social Security," said Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless. Social Security surpluses don't go into a "lock box" but are instead invested in government bonds; the proceeds of these purchases go into the general treasury, and when the bonds mature, the treasury is obligated to pay back the Social Security trust both principal and interest."

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 11:48 AM, PanchoAlmeja wrote:

    So, in your example, the gov buys back its debt from the public and turns it into gov debt?

    Then, there will always be gov debt even if the public debt is eventually depleted by deficit surplus?

    I hope Im not missing the point.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 11:57 AM, TMFHousel wrote:

    <<Then, there will always be gov debt even if the public debt is eventually depleted by deficit surplus?>>

    Yes. It's similar to a 401k loan. It's "debt" that you owe yourself, so "repaying" the loan doesn't make you poorer from an accounting sense because you're just transferring cash from one hand to the other.

    Part of the projections of future annual deficits are the redemption of intragoverment bonds (when entitlement programs run deficits), which is why most budget analysts focus on debt held by the public, not total debt. If you look at total debt and projected deficits, you're double-counting.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 12:02 PM, PanchoAlmeja wrote:

    I feel I got to do a little more reading on the subject but I think I got it. Thank you for taking the time to explain it.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 12:21 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    Morgan- thanks for the link to an MF article on dumb things the government does with our money. I really hadn't realized they were so frequent...May 2012.... ; -)

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 3:21 PM, nmrguy wrote:

    Great column, Morgan. I wish this calm awareness of the decreasing annual budget deficit, and dialing back the panic in consequence, was more widespread. Too much of the political discussion continues to repeat the debt crisis comments that excited supporters in past years rather than addressing current issues as this recedes.

    Your quote "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so," is particularly appropriate for this essay and the larger point you are making. It's not found in the writings of Will Rogers, or Mark Twain as attributed elsewhere. Common mistake, as also used in the movie "Inconvenient Truth." It may have been said by Josh Billings, a humorous living at the time of Samuel Clements, and repeated in accounts of his speeches. Certainly, it is part of our folk wisdom and worth remembering to keep perspective when listening to the certainty of political speakers at both ends of the spectrum.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2013, at 10:05 PM, LotinElite wrote:

    Well, Morgan, you certainly do a good job of addressing the more inane and hysterical objections to this weak article/argument. I've yet to hear anything addressing the substantive arguments.

    It is both interesting and telling that you bring politics into it. (The Politi-fact link you posted isn't working, btw.)

    I asked you to clarify your point and you have yet to do so. Is your assertion really that a more than $600 bn deficit is "good news", or that our fiscal situation is tenable?

    Again, objectively speaking, your article and to a lesser extent the poll you used to make your point, seem pretty disingenuous.

    @SMFT You don't have the whole picture regarding the 2010 deficit. It can be traced back to the Community Reinvestment Act, fannie and freddie, and Barney Frank et al wanting to "roll the dice" on subprime loans (his words.)

    Also, tax cuts historically speaking increase revenue, as the Bush tax cuts did. Not only do across the board tax cuts increase revenue, they lead to a higher proportion of the overall tax burden being paid by "the rich". More info here: http://www.tsowell.com/images/Hoover%20Proof.pdf

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