Sunday, August 28, 2011

Things that are still true: we don't have a borrowing problem

Yglesias on real interest rates for 5 and 7 year Treasuries, which have been and remain negative:
This is an extraordinary situation that ought to be dominating the public debate. What does it mean? Well it means that right now it’s much cheaper for the government to finance some undertaking by borrowing the money and paying for it out of taxes five or seven years from now than to pay for it with taxes. And yet right now not only does the federal government do lots of things, it collects a fair amount of taxes to pay for those things to be done. This is perverse. In your personal life, paying for all your consumption by wracking up huge amounts of credit card debt rather than working would be a terrible idea. But the reason it’s a terrible idea is that the credit card company charges you a high interest rate. Were the credit card company to instead charge you a negative interest rate, it would be borderline insane to pay your bill in a timely manner. But not only are we paying some of our bills on time even though it would be cheaper to not pay them, our present fiscal policy debate is pathologically focused on the idea that we’re borrowing too much money.
I don't have much to add, other than to re-emphasize how stupid a time this is to worry about balancing the budget. Still, it's unsurprising that conservatives remain obsessed with the deficit in the face of basic market facts: their position has nothing to do with intelligent fiscal policy and everything to do with a values-centric worldview in which borrowing is a sign of moral weakness. They've decided upfront that being a debtor is bad; everything else is negotiable.

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