How NPR Is Doing Right-Wing’s Economic Dirty Work on Debt By Dean Baker

Billionaire Peter Peterson is spending lots of money to get people to worry about the debt and deficits rather than focus on the issues that will affect their lives.

National Public Radio is doing its part to try to promote Peterson’s cause with a Morning Edition piece [2] that began by telling people that the next president “will have to wrestle with the federal debt.” This is not true, but it is the hope of Peter Peterson that he can distract the public from the factors that will affect their lives, most importantly the upward redistribution of income, and obsess on the country’s relative small deficit. (A larger deficit right now would promote growth and employment.)

According to theprojections from the Congressional Budget Office [3], interest on the debt will be well below 2.0 percent of GDP when the next president takes office. This is lower than the interest burden faced by any pre-Obama president since Jimmy Carter. The interest burden is projected to rise to 3.0 percent of GDP by 2024 when the next president’s second term is ending, but this would still be below the burden faced by President Clinton when he took office.

Furthermore, the reason for the projected rise in the burden is a projection that the Federal Reserve Board is projected to raise interest rates. If the Fed kept interest rates low [4], then the burden would be little changed over the course of the decade. Of course the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates will have a far greater direct impact on people’s lives than increasing interest costs for the government. (The president appoints 7 of the 12 voting members of the Fed’s Open Market Committee that sets interest rates.)

The reason the Fed raises interest rates is to slow the economy and keep people from getting jobs. This will prevent the labor market from tightening, which will prevent workers from having enough bargaining power to get pay increases. In that case, the bulk of the gains from economic growth will continue to go to those at the top end of the income distribution.

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