Just when we needed him, former congressman and Reagan budget director David Stockman has done something crucial. As classic notions like balanced budgets and keeping debt in check – or even believing that amassing debt has consequences for the future – are becoming passé, along comes no less than David Stockman to spoil the party for those who are preaching otherwise. I don’t agree with a lot of what Stockman has to say, but I believe that he is credible when he talks about the harsh consequences of our deficits and debt.
Stockman has written a book, “The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America,” that outlines the failures of financial policies in the United States from the 1970s onward. He blames both Democratic and Republican administrations for implementing financial policies that he says have made the United States “fiscally, morally, and intellectually” broke.
Stockman, who has cycled through politics as a Republican favorite and then as a heretic, has always been considered smart and honest. He reminds us that debt matters and that printing free money eventually exacts a price. In an op-ed for the New York Times, he warns that, “Without any changes, over the next decade or so, the gross federal debt, now nearly $17 trillion, will hurtle toward $30 trillion and soar to 150 percent of gross domestic product from around 105 percent today…The future is bleak.”
The debt and deficit numbers are so huge that they are becoming – or already are – abstract to many voters. Even when simple math is used to personalize our debt problems, people don’t want to believe the numbers they see. The idea that we now have debts totaling $53,099 per U.S. citizen or $147,877 per taxpayer is so alarming that many voters think it can’t possibly be true. Now that the president and the Democrats have mostly capitulated and formed a chorus of a Siren’s song that “our debt doesn’t matter and Republicans just want to deny you the payout from Washington that is rightfully yours,” it is critical that tireless souls like David Stockman haven’t been intimidated into silence.