I remain convinced that America has two deficits–one fiscal, and one informational. The economic deficit is important, but the deficit in basic understanding of the world we inhabit is arguably the bigger problem.
Case in point, as Steve Benen reports at Maddowblog: debates about the deficit.
As it happens, the budget deficit is getting smaller. In fiscal year 2010, which was President Obama’s first full fiscal year in office, the budget deficit was $1.3 trillion. In fiscal year 2013, the Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit will be $845 billion. That’s a 35 percent decrease in terms of dollars, and it’s even bigger—41 percent—if you are computing the deficit as a share of the GDP. The percentage drop is even bigger—roughly 50 percent—if you start from fiscal year 2009, which overlapped the final year of the Bush presidency and the first year of Obama’s.
The fact that the deficit is declining is not reason to ignore it, of course, but its size and trajectory are important factors–or should be–in any economic analysis, including proposals about appropriate measures to address it.
The problem is, when Bloomberg News commissioned a survey asking Americans whether they believed the budget deficit was growing or shrinking, just six percent answered the question correctly. Ninety-four percent had no clue. (Of the clueless, 62 percent actually thought the deficit was growing.)
So far as I know, Bloomberg didn’t ask a related question, of equal importance. It would be interesting to determine the percentage of Americans who could explain the difference between the deficit and the national debt.
For that matter, it would be interesting to know what percentage of our elected officials could correctly answer either of those questions.