The deficit isn't sexy. There's no use pretending it should be. But it falls to public figures and writers to make unsexy issues tolerable, at minimum. So I appreciate the effort Matt Yglesias put into his article "Debt and the Millennials," which builds a succinct frame for understanding the deficit debate. I agree with just about every part of the post:
-- Since the problem is overwhelmingly one of projected future increases in spending, it's perfectly reasonable to expect that the majority of change relative to baseline will come on the spending side.
-- But since the problem is overwhelmingly one of the growing cost of longstanding commitments, rather than new commitments, it's absurd to expect the change to be entirely on the spending side.
-- What you spend on and what you tax matters more than "how much" you spend and tax. Taxing pollution and reducing expenditures on bombs has very different implications from taxing labor and reducing expenditures on school construction.
-- It's absurd to be spending large and growing sums of money preventing people from moving here while simultaneously facing a Social Security shortfall driven primarily by unexpectedly slow population growth.
-- Young people should push, at the margin, for any cuts in Social Security/Medicare spending to be implemented sooner rather than later. Proposals to let everyone born before 1955 evade any cuts forever are unreasonably punitive to the youngest generation and yet are universal dogma in DC. Complain about this!
The Millennial generation, like every generation before it, should hope to grow up in an economy that grows quickly and produces jobs with rising real wages. They should hope for a government that provides, above all, security. Security from foreign invasion or terrorist threats. Security from poverty. Security from financial bankruptcy in the case of illness.
Too much debt threatens the twin responsibilities of government -- growth and security. Rising interest rates crowd out investment, hurting growth. Reducing the deficit in an environment of rising interest rates requires emergency spending cuts that are likely to come out of domestic spending, threatening income security, or defense, threatening national security.