Friday, February 12, 2010

Debt and Thomas Paine

Some thoughts from Thomas Paine and Common Sense:

Debts we have none: and whatever we may contract on this account will serve as a glorious memento of our virtue. Can we but leave posterity with a settled form of government, an independent constitution of its own, the purchase at any price will be cheap. But to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts repealed, and routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the charge, and is using posterity with the utmost cruelty; because it is leaving them the great work to do, and a debt upon their backs from which they derive no advantage. Such a thought's unworthy a man of honour, and is the true characteristic of a narrow heart and a piddling politician.

The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regard if the work be but accomplished. No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance. Britain is oppressed with a debt of upwards of one hundred and forty millions sterling, for which she pays upwards of four millions interest. And as a compensation for her debt, she has a large navy; America is without a debt, and without a navy; yet for the twentieth part of the English national debt, could have a navy as large again. The navy of England is not worth at this time more than three millions and a half sterling.

It is always worth a thought in light of the most recent Romer comments:

"I think when we're through this, when scholars actually sit and look at this, they will say, 'My goodness, look at all of the trajectory, look at where we were going, my goodness, it would have been dramatically worse [without the stimulus],' " Romer said Friday....Romer said frustration partly stems from the fact that Americans haven't been able to compare the current economic situation to one that would have been more dire if the stimulus hadn't been enacted.

"We're inherently in the world of the counterfactual, right? We know we're still losing jobs; [the] unemployment rate has gone up steadily. In that world, if you ask people, 'Are things working?' they say, 'God, no, things aren't working,' " she said.

Asked why the public hasn't supported Obama like they did with President Franklin Roosevelt after his New Deal efforts to combat the Great Depression, Romer noted that people had been "suffering like crazy" for the three years before Roosevelt took office.

"At some level, they had seen the counterfactual, they had to see what happens when you don't do something," Romer said. "I think this unbelievable sense of relief that someone was doing something did keep them with [Roosevelt] for a while."

I know Thomas Paine, Thomas Paine is a friend of mine, and Ms. Romer you are no Thomas Paine.