Public Service Announcement: Sometimes a Higher Deficit is Good. Like, For Example, Right Now.

More polling fun: Business Insider conducted an internet survey that asked people what would happen to the deficit if we go over the fiscal cliff. Nearly half thought the deficit would increase. The correct answer, of course, is that the fiscal cliff involves tax increases and spending cuts, which would dramatically reduce the deficit.

My initial reaction to this was pretty meh. I figure most people have only a vague idea what the fiscal cliff is, but they know it’s bad. They also think that deficits are bad. Ergo, the fiscal cliff must produce higher deficits. This is wrong, but pretty understandable for the large majority of the population that doesn’t really follow this stuff closely.

But Paul Krugman points out a related but different interpretation:

In a way, I understand this: the VSPs have been pounding the drum over and over again about how deficits are bad, evil; now they are warning about a fiscal something-or-other, so how are people supposed to know that they’re suddenly worried that we’ll reduce the deficit too much?

Right. Given the current level of discourse, it’s inconceivable to a lot of people that reducing the deficit could be bad. That being the case, it’s inconceivable that anything that would cause a deficit reduction could be bad. Therefore the fiscal cliff must not do that. It must cause a deficit increase.

This makes perfect sense even if you do follow this stuff fairly closely. As long as the media continues to treat the federal deficit as a self-evident apocalypse, what else would most people think?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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