Yesterday afternoon I was doing something I usually avoid - listening to a lot of the Congressional debate on C-Span. Both sides were depressing because both were demanding deficit reduction. The Democrats were a smidgen less depressing because they at least kept pounding the position that maybe reforming some tax credits was a better way to close the gap than cutting into student loans. But overall, it was not what you wanted to hear during what is now increasingly being called the "Little Depression".
One of the things that just about every Republican said was that "Washington needs to do what families do and not spend more than they take in". It's powerful rhetoric that is electoral gold. Getting tough on the deficit is good for politicians - analogizing it to family values is even better.
What's bothersome is that no one challenged this view, which among economists is almost universally considered to be fallacious. Even those economists who don't think deficit spending is good macroeconomic policy do not claim that government has to, on average, run a balanced budget. The people demanding austerity ultimately have a better stump speech than the people who understand public deficits and debt, and this is a problem.
So my question to readers is - what is a good, succinct way for politicians to communicate that (1.) public debt is different from private debt, (2.) it is not fiscally responsible to cut public debt during downturns, and (3.) we can run deficits from now until the Sun burns out and everything would be just fine, so long as their magnitude is manageable over long periods.
Let's put together a good stump-speech phrase and then spread it over the internet - get Paul Krugman, Matt Yglesias, Brad DeLong, Mark Thoma, Menzie Chinn, and lots of others saying it so politicians might start saying it. What should our representatives say when Republicans or others analogize government to families?
[A note on comments - I know I have a large libertarian readership, but I'm not at all interested in challenges to these three points. While (2.) is admittedly a fair topic for debate, the other two simply aren't. I'm really interested in generating a good stump-speech phrase, so comments trying to challenge the premise are just going to get deleted. I'm not interested in a debate on this particular post. Obviously this comment policy doesn't carry over to other posts].