What are the most serious threats to the future stability and economic prosperity of the United States of America? Recent polls show that the vast majority of the American people are aware that one of them is the monstrous debt being accumulated by the federal government. At the same time a retro-Keynesian lobby of economics professionals is trying to sell the people and their elected servants the lie that the national debt, unlike the private debts of individual consumers and businesses, is nothing to worry about. The soothing mantra goes like this: "We owe it to ourselves."
First of all, it is not too hard to find out that a significant chunk of "it" is now owned by foreign individuals, corporations, and governments. Financial globalization naturally tends to scare xenophobic journalists such as Lou Dobbs. Free-market advocates also have serious concerns regarding the excessive number of zeroes in our national debt figure. My major reservation toward the optimism justifying the current expansionary fiscal policy stems from the fact that even in our internal indebtedness "we" and "ourselves" are two different groups of people. Let me explain:
If Jack borrows a dollar to buy a muffin from Jill and later Jill borrows a dollar to pay Jack for mowing her lawn things may be OK in the long run - for as long as people like muffins and the grass keeps growing back.
But that is not the case with our national debt. What happens here is that upper-middle-class Jack has invested the savings of his forty productive years in Treasury bonds. Now baby-boomer Jack retires to his Florida mansion. In addition to all medical and welfare benefits, he expects to collect handsomely on the government promises to pay its lenders. And since it is unlikely that Obama will find enough to tax away at the top five percent, much of the financial burden will be thrown on the back of lower-middle-income generation-X Jill, her children, and grandchildren.