Friday, March 17, 2006

QuickTake: Senate Votes to Raise Debt Limit

The news media had a field day alarming Americans with the news that the U.S. debt limit was raised by Congress tp $9 trillion. The idea that everyone--man, woman, and child--owes $30,000 to someone else when the overall federal debt is alloted proportionally seemed to catch the fancy of reporters.

The fact is that the debt finances both government consumption, some of it worthy and some of it wasteful, plus government investment. People are getting something for their money, although it may not always be what they want. Most importantly, however, realize that the debt is not $30,000 per year. The $30,000 represents the accumulated per capita debt. I seem to recall that this number was about $26,000 five or six years ago.

Maybe stories on debt should also mention the increase in private debt, such as mortgage and credit card debt, when they bring up the public debt. Oh, and another thing, it would make sense to state the debt in real terms, meaning adjusted for inflation.

I guess it's too easy just to write an alarming headline and dash off a story.

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