Leaning on The Panic Button

An executive's best-selling jeremiad about the federal budget deficit is a good scare but a weak prescription

For two centuries, the idea that the federal debt would be the ruin of America was among the nation's great political hobgoblins -- right up there with the Red Menace and the Yellow Peril. Public indebtedness, said Thomas Jefferson, who spent $27,267,622 of the national treasure to purchase Louisiana, is "the greatest danger to be feared." Herbert Hoover, whose policies helped usher in the Great Depression, declared that "government borrowing . . . is a device to load our extravagance and waste onto the next generation." Eventually, though, as Armageddon kept getting postponed and new generations thrived, the issue receded into...

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