This debate is healthy. Journalists should press Obama and his congressional supporters about whether 2009-10 was a justifiable time to run a record deficit, and when and how Democrats are planning to reduce the deficit.
But there is another part of the debate that also needs to happen. Journalists need to press the congressional teabaggers about what spending they would have foregone to prevent deficits, and then report about the consequences, according to experts, of such decisions.
While reporting that questions Obama’s deficit spending is regularly being done, reporting that analyzes the consequences of the teabaggers’ laissez faire approach largely is not happening.
If deficit hawks say Obama shouldn’t have created the deficit by spending on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a stimulus package, the auto manufacturer loans, the middle east wars, preserving the Bush tax cuts during a downturn, and/or unemployment insurance claims, fine. But what do economic and foreign policy experts say the ramifications of such choices would have been?
Yes, deficits are the result of deficit spending. We get that. But there are also consequences of NOT deficit spending during an economic crisis. Little items like financial meltdowns, collapse of our manufacturing base, much deeper joblessness, more foreclosures and bankruptcies, and the ripples all of those explosions would have sent throughout the economy.
The deficit debate America needs must go deeper than “deficits: like or dislike?” Of course we all dislike deficits. But a healthier debate requires a bit more frontal lobe strain: “Under the 2009-10 circumstances, did the benefits of deficit spending outweigh the costs?” And that debate requires more facilitation and illumination by less passive national journalists.