Higher Taxes for the Middle Class? My Interview with Maya MacGuineas (Part 2)

the power of zero

Politicians are in a state of mind where they are not interested in fixing the problem, which means that the fix on the backend is going to have to be more aggressive and draconian. The damage the debt does is, in many ways, invisible to the average person.

We have had decades to fix the debt problems but politicians have failed to do so. If we made these changes to something like Social Security years ago, we could have fixed it without affecting anyone depending on the system, but that is not the case anymore.

If you look at where we’re headed, we will continue to see lower growth in the economy going forward. Economic growth, mobility, and income growth will be slower than it otherwise would have been.

One of the real major concerns has less to do with economics than it does with national security. The US will not have the economic dominance that it had in the past that secured its geopolitical place in the world and will find itself falling behind places like China.

We need to begin thinking more about the long-term changes in the nature of work due to technology. We need a social contract that reflects and recognizes these changes so people can work effectively and productively with the changes that are happening more and more rapidly.

As our fiscal health weakens, our ability to meet the challenges of this century is greatly diminished and we will be dangerously weak for it.

Modern Monetary Theory says that you can’t default when you borrow your own currency., which is true, but just because we can’t default, that doesn’t mean we have a healthy economy. MMT recommends fiscal policy to control inflation, which means basically raising taxes.

The trouble with that idea is that there aren’t any politicians willing to raise taxes, let alone cut spending or both. MMT proponents don’t understand the dangers of inflation. Inflation can wipe away your entire savings and create an economic recession that is difficult to escape and painful for everyone.

Borrowing during the downturn is not an example of MMT being correct. MMT is dangerous because it’s so seductive. Who doesn’t want to be able to spend as much as you want indefinitely with no consequences? But just because you want it to be true that doesn’t make it true.

Economists need to be unbiased and neutral when it comes to political ideology. There are politicians in power right now that recognize the threat of the national debt, but there are also groups that are working against the effort.

Many politicians are willing to do the right thing, but they can’t do it in isolation. There is no point in having people who are willing to do the right thing get destroyed politically without achieving anything.

Part of the problem is that the national debt does lend itself to grassroots outrage. Ideally, there is some leadership at the top to champion the cause.There are a lot of great members in congress and there’s a real chance for them to come together, but we are going to have to figure out how to come together as one country to solve these big problems if we want to see them rise to that challenge.


Mentioned in this Episode:

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – crfb.org

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