The way people talk about how much the federal budget deficit is rising, you’d think the sky was falling. In fact, a Bloomberg Politics Poll shows that neither is true.
As noted by The Rachel Maddow Show, 73 percent of Americans don’t know that the federal deficit it has shrunk every year since 2011, and is less than half the size that it was in 2009. In fact, they think it’s getting larger.
According to NPR, the deficit is expected to fall in 2015 as well.
That misconception matters. “If Americans believe, incorrectly, that the deficit is getting bigger, and they also consider this a bad thing, these same voters may be inclined to vote for candidates who’ll slash public investments and undermine social-insurance programs,” Steve Benen wrote on the MaddowBlog. “And that has real-world consequences.”
It’s not just the public that’s confused. Numerous presidential candidates this year have made the budget deficit a regular talking point, by conflating the notion of “debt” with “deficit.” According to National Review, Jeb Bush has talked about the need to shrink entitlements in order to reduce our debt; Rand Paul has claimed that “the number-one threat to our national security is our debt,” even as deficits go down; and Marco Rubio has called it “the real defining issue of our time.”
The “deficit” and “debt” are not identical, but as one causes the other, reducing deficits is a sign of progress on the debt.
All of which leads Meridian Wealth to suggest that the reason why nobody’s talking about how much better our deficit situation has become is that it’s harder to score political points when the deficit is retreating faster than expected.
“It might be harder for politicians to generate public outrage at a deficit coming in so far
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