Balanced-Budget Blues

If families have to balance budgets, governments should too, right? Wrong

illustration by Harry Campbell for TIME

Folksy politics is always difficult to counter successfully, in part because it has such strong emotional appeal. Consider the hoopla over raising the U.S. federal debt ceiling and the Republican efforts to pass a balanced-budget amendment to force the U.S. to make whatever spending cuts are required to get into the black and stay there, year after year.

The conservatives pushing this "cut, cap and balance" plan have a very powerful and easy-to-digest sales pitch: since no individual household can continually spend more than its income, why should the federal government be able to? It's a compelling question, especially if you...

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