Robert Borosage is the co-director of Campaign for America's Future.
The drumbeat about deficits has reached deafening levels. The president warns about "out of control" spending. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke calls for bringing deficits down. The opinion pages bristle with rants about the U.S. turning into Greece, headed to default. Next week, the first session of the president's "National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform" will convene. The next day, shamelessly, the two co-chairs and the staff director (all committed deficit hawks) will grace a forum sponsored by the Peterson Foundation, established by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson largely to gin up hysteria about America's long term deficits.
This potion is being served long before its time. Sure, deficits are big and the projections are scary. But the economy is struggling to get out of a big hole. Unemployment is still near 10%. Foreclosures are still rising. Banks aren't lending; businesses aren't hiring. Deficit spending is critical to what little growth we've seen.
The president and the Congress should be focused on jobs, not deficits. Ironically, when pushed, most of the purveyors of the hysteria agree. Bernanke admits we shouldn't roll back the spending too soon, and is keeping interest rates (for the banks) near zero. David Walker, head of the Peterson Foundation, agrees deficits might be larger in the short run to create jobs and help get the economy going. But these cautions can't be heard amid the clamor about deficits.
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