Jonah Goldberg

In other words, when the economy hits a rocky patch, most experts agree that the government should either cut taxes, increase spending or both in order to stimulate the economy. A personal financial consultant wouldn't object to a truck driver going into temporary debt to get his broken truck fixed, and pretty much all economists, liberals and conservatives alike, don't object to borrowing in order to restart economic growth. Meanwhile, everyone agrees that it would be a bad idea for a truck driver to carry, say, $20,000 in credit card debt from month to month because he will spend an unhealthy share of his resources simply servicing his debt.

If somehow, at this point in the column I could make some balloon animals to get your attention back I would. Since I can't, let me finish up the economics stuff as quickly as possible.

Personally, I think you fix deficits by growing out of them. If the economy grew at 2 percent a year it would double in a generation. If it grew at 6 percent a year, the economy would double in about 12 years. So, let's do everything we can to grow the economy and shrink the relative size of the deficit tumor. What constitutes the best way to grow the economy is a subject for another day.

But enough about economics. What drives me nuts about all of the talk about deficits is how it makes the deficit seem like the disease rather than the symptom. The disease is a metastasizing federal government, the deficit is little more than a fever.

When I listen to liberals and journalists complain about Bush's truly outrageous runaway spending, they make it sound as if runaway spending would be fine if we had a balanced budget.

I don't want a huge federal government because I don't want a huge federal government, not because we're borrowing too much money. Whether or not Sweden has a balanced budget has precisely zero impact on my lack of desire to live there.

There's a long list of reasons why big government is wrong: a big government is inefficient; it saps individual initiative; it imposes Washington's values on a vast nation of free people; it makes us all employees of the state and so on.

I agree that a big deficit belongs on that list, but not anywhere near the top of it.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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