I went to have my routine eye exam today, and the ophthalmologist, an educated man and small-business owner (he runs his practice with his son), was — as he often does — channeling the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s view of the world. Today the heartfelt worry was that the Deficit Will Devour Us All, especially if we fall off the Dreadful Fiscal Cliff.
I attempted to point out that he could relax because on day one the so-called Fiscal Cliff (1) doesn’t do dramatic changes [although I should have added it stops extended unemployment payments, which is a bit drastic], and (2) fully implemented it lowers the deficit, which should have made him happy about his deficit worries. But, no, he said, then people won’t have any money. My attempts to suggest this argued for stimulus spending (and bigger deficits in the short run) failed to crack through what he knew was true: deficits are bad because they cause inflation, and the Fiscal Cliff is bad because it reduces spending money in the economy, and these ideas are not in tension. (Note please that I wrote “not in tension” rather than “utterly incompatible” as there might be some way to reconcile them, but that’s not what he was trying to do.)
As we parted, my ophthalmologist asked for some things to read “to hear the other side”. So I’m putting together a list for him, version 0.1 of which appears below. Please help me improve this list — keeping in mind he primarily wants economics-oriented readings for a non-economist.
- Basic facts about the causes of deficit: wars and tax cuts (CBPP)
- The real nature of that “crushing” debt burden (CEPR)
- Why it might be that you are hearing about hysteria over the deficit (CEPR)
- The Atlantic magazine has a comprehensive set of economic charts. Note that while the the first set of charts are about Europe, most of the others are about the US economy.
- More generally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities offers a very balanced assessment of relevant data. Some staring points:Three Charts on the Coming Budget Debate and some basic tax info and some more.
Other good general sources for economic information
- Paul Krugman, his columns and his blogs
- Dean Baker’s blog, Beat the Press
- Mark Thoma, Economist’s View (more technical than the above)
- Brad DeLong has a list of 50 valuable economics blogs if you are a glutton for economics.
For general political comment, including but not limited to the politics of the budget, I recommend