In his Washington Post column (10/26/17), Fareed Zakaria pushes the pet myth of the arithmetic-challenged elite (yes, that is probably redundant) that the federal debt is limiting spending for many important ends:
[The United States] is politically paralyzed, unable to make major decisions. Amidst a ballooning debt, its investments in education, infrastructure, and science and technology are seriously lacking.
Arithmetic fans would evaluate this assertion by looking for evidence that the debt is causing problems such as high interest rates and inflation, and creating a large debt-service burden.
The opposite is the case, with long-term interest rates still under 2.5 percent, compared to more than 5.0 percent in the surplus years of the late 1990s. Inflation remains under the Fed’s 2.0 percent target, and has actually been trending downward this year. And debt service is less than 1.0 percent of GDP (net of interest rebated by the Fed), compared to over 3.0 percent in the 1990s.
In short, there is no evidence that debt is limiting our ability to spend more in these and other areas. There is a strong case that fears over the debt, raised by folks like Zakaria, are limiting our ability to invest for the future.
A version of this post originally appeared on CEPR’s blog Beat the Press (10/27/17).