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Economy more important than rising federal debt

February 11, 2010

Weapons of mass destruction.

We’re all aware there were none in Iraq, despite the widespread reports to the contrary leading up to the Iraq War in 2003. Unless of course, you consider the damage such reports had on former President George W. Bush’s reputation. Seven years later and Republicans are using WMDs of their own.

You see, when the White House and President Obama released a new budget Feb. 1, it included a significant amount of increased spending to create new jobs. As a result, the deficit is projected to be $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2011 alone. Yet, given the current state of the economy, it would be hard to argue against such budget provisions. But that’s exactly what Republican leaders are doing, and it’s not exactly like their tactics are new either.

Just as they did seven years ago with WMDs, they’ve created a false concern — this time being the rising federal debt — to exploit and instill fear about in Americans that typically don’t trust politicians, yet have put plenty of stock in the need to reduce the deficit.

The truth is, the deficit is not and should not be a primary concern. Projections show the interest payments on federal debt will rise to 3.5 percent of G.D.P. by 2020, a number that sounds high, but changes when put into context. Compared to the interest costs under the first President Bush — 20 years ago — the payments are roughly the same.

Like most areas of politics, the debate over the national debt depends on the way you frame the questions and facts. Sure, America’s “sea of red ink” is something that should not get much larger or be allowed to grow for too long, but it’s not the biggest concern.

Obama and his administration should be commended for increasing spending in the face of the rising federal debt to provide something that truly is important: more jobs. Unemployment among households making $12,499 or less was an incredible 30.8 percent during the last quarter of 2009, or significantly higher than the overall jobless rate during the height of the Depression.

These people need a lot of help, and hopefully, the increased governmental spending will give it to them.

Then again, maybe we should ask them if the federal debt is an issue?

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