A silly little article in Sunday's The State newspaper is headlined, "U.S. debt woes not so dire, experts say." It is by Don Lee and Jim Puzzanghera of McClatchy Newspapers. A funny thing about the article is that it doesn't mention the name of a single "expert." The writers claim that, "...the debt is probably not even the country's biggest economic challenge, most experts say, and certainly not the most urgent," but are unclear about what the "most urgent" challenge is.
Perhaps the most urgent problem is identified by un-identified analysts at Macroeconomic Advisers who are quoted as saying, in unison I suppose, "The debt ceiling, the sequester, and the expiring budget resolution comprise a three-pack of uncertainties that in the near term is bad for the economy."
Or perhaps the most urgent problem is the inaction of Congress in the face of the fact that "most financial experts agree that...the nation's debt could most likely be controlled for at least the next decade by making a series of relatively moderate policy changes." Now that is a wishy-washy unattributed statement if I ever read one, based on inclusion of "most," "most," "at least," and "relatively moderate."
A little investigation revealed that it is The State that is responsible for much of the problem with this article since its version edited the Los Angeles Times original to exclude the names of two of the experts, Roberton Williams of The Tax Policy Center and Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. I'm not sure how Lee and Puzzanghera got from those two names to claiming agreement among "most experts," but maybe that is what Williams and Zandi said. Or maybe Lee and Puzzanghera are just followers of Paul Krugman.
But here is the bottom line: It is not the debt per se nor the spending per se nor the economy per se that is the biggest problem or is most "dire." The biggest problem is the inability or unwillingness of Congress to deal with all these issues in order to avoid what even Puzzanghera and Lee write will be serious trouble "10 or 20 years down the road," by making "relatively modest policy changes" now to get the federal income/outgo and the economy back on track.
It's tough being a skeptical observer, having to worry about how many Americans just saw that silly headline in the paper this morning and immediately stopped being concerned and wrote off all the fiscal responsibility advocates as irrelevant.
I failed to put the links in originally: L.A.Times
Can't find it on The State website, but here is what it looked like: