Joe Scarborough, a former congressman (R-Fla.), hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.” Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute and author of “The Price of Civilization.”
Dick Cheney and Paul Krugman have declared from opposite sides of the ideological divide that deficits don’t matter, but they simply have it wrong. Reasonable liberals and conservatives can disagree on what role the federal government should play yet still believe that government should resume paying its way.
It has become part of Keynesian lore in recent years that public debt is essentially free, that we needn’t worry about its buildup and that we should devote all of our attention to short-term concerns since, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “in the long run, we are all dead.” But that crude interpretation of Keynesian economics is deeply misguided; Keynes himself disagreed with it.
When President Obama came into office in January 2009, he inherited an economic mess, including a deficit of more than $1 trillion. Yet he soon piled up even more debt by tripling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and pushing through Congress a shortsighted stimulus bill and a health-care package that did not fundamentally address the excessive costs of the health-care system. After his party took a midterm drubbing from Republicans, the Obama White House then supported the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and other “stimulus” items, adding another trillion dollars or so of red ink to Washington’s ledger.