Paced by housing and energy, the U.S. recovery is likely to accelerate this year and budget deficit projections have declined as well. Unfortunately the European economy remains stagnant though there is some evidence that stimulative policies are gaining traction in Japan. Around the world the idea of “austerity” is fiercely debated. This all makes a reconsideration of the principles that should guide fiscal policy opportune. This requires recognizing that policies need to be set in light of economic circumstances.
There should be little disagreement across the political spectrum that growth and job creation remain America’s most serious national problem. Ahead of President Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term, and further fiscal negotiations in Washington, America needs to rethink its priorities for economic policy.
Since the election, American public policy debate has been focused on prospective budget deficits and what can be done to reduce them. The concerns are in part economic, with a recognition that debts cannot be allowed, indefinitely, to grow faster than incomes and the capacity repay. And they have a heavy moral dimension with regard to this generation not unduly burdening our children. There is also an international and security dimension: The excessive buildup of debt would leave the United States vulnerable to foreign creditors and without the flexibility to respond to international emergencies.
Writing on behalf of the Romney campaign, my friend Mike Boskin has responded to my column from last week that argued that in a number of areas of economic policy, President Obama has the superior vision. Boskin condemns what he refers to as “Obama debt” and argues that Governor Romney has a better plan that he asserts offers “a superior alternative of balanced budgets.” While I was not writing on behalf of the Obama campaign and my piece had a much broader focus than budget deficits, several responses are appropriate.