Here's another report from the CBS News with Katie Couric about government borrowing. Again, there's nothing here that wonks and policymakers will find new. But they're not the target audience: up-to-now-uninterested-viewers are the ones who mostly watch the evening news. This is also the group that has to become interested if the situation is going to change.
I'm going to check with CBS on Monday to find out how long this series is going to continue.
The national debt is not usually news.
Except when it's not increased by the time the government's existing debt ceiling is reached and the Treasury has to do some interesting things to manage cash flow, federal borrowing is seldom widely reported. When it is, it's usually only of interest to Wall Street and mentioned mostly by financial outlets like Bloomberg, Marketplace, CNBC, etc.
This has been especially the case in recent years as the White House has tried to dampen public and media interest in anything having to do with the budget, fiscal policy, and federal finances. By not talking about it, the administration has tried to convince everyone that it's not an issue.
Troy posted a link to the video of the CRFB dinner's panel discussion on "Are Fiscally Responsible Elections Possible?" From the lineup, you might have expected this to get interesting. Mark Halperin was the moderator. There were two former OMB directors in Leon Panetta (Clinton) and James Miller (Reagan). There were economic advisors from the three remaining Presidential candidates in Gene Sperling (Clinton), Jeff Liebman (Obama), and Doug Holtz-Eakin (McCain).
Things did get interesting around the 33 minute mark, when Miller started peddling supply-side gibberish.
Yesterday afternoon, the Senate cleared the way to pass a $14.9 b. housing stimulus bill, H.R.3221, next Tuesday, that won't stimulate housing much. They did that by killling Senator Durbin's (D-IL) amendment to give bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite first mortgages. That was a deal-breaker for the mortgage lending industry. It was also the only thing that might have helped those facing foreclosure, albeit as the cost of raising future mortgage interest rates for the increased risk that future mortgages might be written down.
I enjoyed Stan's account of the CRFB annual dinner and the opportunity to assemble as the full CG&G team. I'll have one thing to add on the dinner in a later post. Since I was making the trip from the frozen tundra of New Hampshire, I made a day of it and attended the roundtable on the economy, financial markets, and the budget that preceded the dinner. For my part, I contributed the following to the discussion:
First, I asked the question, "Who are the Bear Stearns creditors and why is it so important [that it requires Central Bank intervention] that they be paid?" They invested and it turns out that they lost. They might have a case in court, but why do they have a special claim on the federal government? I don't believe they do, and nothing I heard convinced me otherwise.