I am a very political person, but I don't intend to make it a focus of my blog. However, I have been thinking a lot recently about the core issue that nobody talks about underlying politics, and I wanted to share some questions with you and see others' opinions on the subject. What follows is a slight expansion of something I posted on Facebook earlier:
Both images from FactCheck.org
Today I saw an info-graphic about that directly contradicted another chart I had seen recently, and it made me want to look into the matter. Part of the issue is to find reliable, politically neutral sources, but I think PolitiFact and FactCheck.org are probably both good. In fact, the latter has an article on exactly this issue, though I found some of PolitiFact's information about how these things are calculated to be more elucidating: comparing Obama's debt to previous presidents and comparing the percentage of debt increase from Regan to Obama.
There certainly is a lot of political mud slinging about whose fault the debt is, and about what the relationship between tax policy, the economy, and Federal debt. I also read an interesting article about the relationship between taxation rates and revenue rates as a percentage of GDP. But is anybody really addressing the meat behind the competing claims? Now, what I find most interesting is thinking about what matters most when it comes to debt. Is anybody explaining what it means to pick one method of calculation over another? Which is most important? Is it the amount increase or percentage? What about inflation and GDP?
Once we've figures out what kind of debt increase is most fiscally impactful, what about the type of debt? Do we worry about gross debt including Social Security, etc or "public debt"? Who do we owe? Is it other countries, or is it citizens buying government bonds. Is it better to issue bonds with a percentage interest paid or to tax to get the money?
At heart, what is the real issue with federal debt? One way to make federal spending approachable is to compare it to household spending. We all know that as individuals spending more than we can afford is really stupid. This is why everyone is concerned about the debt, isn't it? On the other hand, we consider certain types of personal debt to be good, such as home loans and student loans. Going into credit card debt in an emergency in acceptable (though not ideal -- better to have a savings fund), but the same debt over frivolous spending is not. Additionally, the size of our "good" debt (such as the house and car we buy) has to be dictated by the size of our salary. Obviously, there is a correlation in how the government should operate, except that it is in some ways more like a business than an individual because the government provides services and charges rates. The question really is: what services should the government provide and what rates should it charge to do so? When is it ok for the government to make a long-term investment or take on emergency debt? Which services and expenditures are frivolous and which are necessary? Shouldn't these be the questions we are asking?
What nobody really seems to be talking about is the core reason for the existence of government. Everything you tack onto it must be justified by this core principal, and politicians platforms are only talking about the satellite issues. What do you think government's core mission should be?