American Debt Crisis: A Cinder-Block Wall, Or A Screen Door?

No. 1 in a series on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

The American political deadlock over debt and taxes is an enigma. It’s a monster with too many heads. Starting today, I’m doing a series of blogging quick takes, each post only a few sentences, zeroing in on one question. No more windy dissertations.

Today’s question: Is the world as we know it about to end, if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree to raise the debt ceiling?

The sovereign debts of the U.S. and other countries are huge beyond comprehension. But what is their real import? In the 1980s, when “fiscally responsible” Republicans were digging the debt hole, they decreed that deficits no longer matter. Could that possibly be true?

Is the debt crisis being trumped-up for ideological purposes, to kill Medicare, or Social Security?

To be sure, debt exists on paper, as bonds and notes and bookkeeping entries. But what, if anything, does the paper represent? Is national debt a tangible reality, like wood; or an abstract concept, light as air?

Better check under the bed. Is anyone hiding there?

Remember Y2K? End of the world. Planes were going to fall from the sky. Approaching Y2K, it looked like a cinder-block wall, into which civilization was going to crash and burn.

Arriving at Y2K, we passed through it like air through a screen door.

— John Hayden

(Quick-take rating for this post: 215 words.)

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