Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Ruth Marcus: “A Debt Crisis That Requires Compassion”

Mar 23, 2011

In her recent column, Ruth Marcus, of The Washington Post declared:

“Don’t call me a deficit hawk. Call me a deficit panda.”

Seeking a cuddlier image for the mantle of fiscal responsibility, she continues:

“I would argue that it is possible to be a deficit panda: to simultaneously worry about the debt and believe in an active and compassionate role for government. In fact, I would argue that worrying about the debt is required of those who believe in such a government role."

Ruth points out that failing to address our national debt will eventually hurt everyone – but especially the most vulnerable:

"This point would seem obvious, except that too often the fiscal policy debate seems to be divided between grinch-like deficit hawks and caring big spenders. The progressive case for worrying about the debt too often goes unmade, and the players forget: Fiscal responsibility is, at bottom, moral responsibility. Fiscal crises are ultimately human crises."

But she does not forget the average American. Ruth looks at how “John”, a 56 year old Baby Boomer, and Nick, a 24 year old recent college graduate and Millennial, will be worse off if our debt problems are not fixed.

Nick and John are some of the fictitious characters we created in our recent paper, America's Fiscal Choices at a Crossroad: the Human Side of the Fiscal Crisis, to illustrate the benefits from tackling our fiscal problems for people – and the high costs for them if we do not. (For more details on Nick, John, Edna, Keisha and Kate, see our “Meet the Generation” blog series continuing through this week.)

Ruth moderated CRFB's Human Side of the Fiscal Crisis event earlier this month. The event featured conversations among top fiscal experts and people representing many of the major voices involved in our budget battles. View the event and the many presentations here.

Click here to read the full column.