Debt and Deficits

Steve Chapman on Voters' Deluded Attitudes About Government Debt

Americans, in short, are willing to do anything to cut the deficit and restrain the debt except what needs to be done.

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Pen Waggener / Flickr

The gross U.S. government debt now stands at $17 trillion, more than double what it was a decade ago. It's still expanding, as the Treasury Department pays out more than it takes in, and the shortfall is expected to grow over the next decade. So it's deeply gratifying to learn that Americans are "highly concerned" about the problem.

Americans do want Washington to bring the budget under control. The catch is that they have no idea what it would take—and reject the steps that would be needed, writes Steve Chapman. They want it in the same way they want to be thin, rich and well informed: only if the goal can be achieved with no effort.

Americans, in short, are willing to do anything to cut the deficit and restrain the debt except what needs to be done. They overwhelmingly prefer bogus remedies to real ones and magical thinking to reality, according to Chapman.