–John Mauldin, debt hawk pushing on a string

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology.

John Mauldin makes a living writing about economics. He posts a blog called “The Big Picture” One of his more recent posts (9/28/10), titled, “Pushing on a string,” contained this observation: “What is needed is fiscal austerity (slowly) before debt spirals out of control. . . “

I entered the following comment to his post:

It’s nice to see that John remains a typical debt-hawk. He never says what “out of control” means, because debt hawks never offer specifics. So let’s speculate:

Does it mean the federal government will be unable to service its debt (the normal meaning for “out of control”)? Nope. Couldn’t be that. As a monetarily sovereign nation since 1971, the U.S. federal government has the unlimited ability to service its debt.

So, does it mean we’ll have inflation? Nope. Since that fateful August 1971 date, there has been no relationship between federal deficits and inflation. Since that time, the cause of inflation has been energy prices.

So, does it mean taxes will be higher or our grandchildren will owe the debt? No, there is no modern (post-1971) relationship between tax rates and inflation or deficits. Our grandchildren actually benefit from federal spending. So what does “out of control” mean. No one knows. I suspect it means something like, “It’s big and I don’t like the word ‘debt.’”

Oh, then there is the “problem” of banks not lending, which is another way of saying, adding to private debt. Does it strike anyone as curious that the pundits want the private sector to borrow more, while these same pundits want the federal government to borrow less? Here is the private sector, where bankruptcies are rampant, and the pundits want more borrowing. And here is the government, which can service a debt of any size, and functionally is incapable of bankruptcy, and the debt hawks want to restrict debt.

And then there is the debt hawk call for less federal spending and more taxes (the only way to get the federal debt down), while being vaguely aware that federal spending is stimulative and taxes hurt the economy.

Oh, you don’t like stimuli because they “don’t work.” Then you will enjoy the story of the man whose roof was on fire. His neighbor showed up with a garden hose and actually was able to reduce the flames, but only somewhat. The neighbor wanted to call the fire department, who would bring out the big hoses, but the man told him to stop, because “The fire still is burning, so obviously, water doesn’t put out fires.” And just as “obviously,” adding money doesn’t cure a recession.

The reason debt hawks continually call for conflicting actions is they begin with a false assumption. The assumption: Federal debt has an adverse effect on the economy. The truth: Federal debt is absolutely necessary for economic growth. Without it, we would have no economy at all.

But try telling facts to a debt hawk.

John has not and will not respond, which is a debt hawk custom. They don’t respond because they have no facts with which to respond. But I’ll give them this: Even with no facts they have managed to convince the world. I’m envious.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

No nation can tax itself into prosperity.