Intelligence Squared

Thursday, December 17 at 2:00 pm

Should We Stop Worrying About National Deficits?

Governments around the world have spent unprecedented sums — trillions of dollars — to combat the economic impacts of coronavirus. In the United States alone, the national deficit surpassed $3 trillion this year. That’s three times larger than in 2019 and some $2 trillion more than the White House projected back in February. But just what does rising government debt mean for our future? A new crop of economists – adherents to Modern Monetary Theory – have a bold proposition: Don't worry about it. In a modern economy, they argue, deficits are no bogeyman. And they're certainly no excuse to halt state spending on things like education and healthcare. Take Japan, for instance, where the national deficit is a soaring $12 trillion and counting. But others are more wary. They warn that unless political leaders balance the books, soaring federal debt will undermine the nation's economic future and compromise national security and its sovereignty. So, we ask, are rising national deficits cause for concern?

The Debaters:
James Galbraith
Professor of Public Affairs & Former Executive Director, Congressional Joint Economic Committee
James Galbraith is an economist and professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He was executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in the early 1980s and previously chaired the board of Economists for Peace and Security. Galbraith is the author of several books, including "Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know."

Stephanie Kelton
Economist & Author, "The Deficit Myth"
Stephanie Kelton is the bestselling author of "The Deficit Myth" and a leading authority on Modern Monetary Theory, a new approach to economics that has been embraced by leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Kelton served as chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and was a senior economic adviser to Sanders' presidential campaigns. She was named one of the 50 people most influencing the policy debate in America by POLITICO and is currently a professor at Stony Brook University.

Todd Buchholz
Former White House Director of Economic Policy & Author, "The Price of Prosperity"
Todd Buchholz a leading expert on the economy, stock market, and politics. He was director of economic policy under President George H. W. Bush and managing director of the Tiger Management hedge fund. He is the author of "New Ideas from Dead Economists" and “The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them.”

Otmar Issing
Former Chief Economist, European Central Bank
Otmar Issing is a former chief economist and member of the board of the European Central Bank. Issing chaired the Advisory Council on a New Financial Order appointed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2008-2010) and was as an international adviser to Goldman Sachs (2007-2018). He currently serves as president of the Center for Financial Studies at Goethe University, Frankfurt.

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