We should have very serious questions about the bona fides of those people who’ve suddenly discovered the budget deficit, endowed it with a fierce urgency, and claimed that their anger knows no party. As they say, virtue never tested is no virtue at all.
We should also question their messaging. If you want to make the argument that the deficit will “defeat a great nation,” and that the solution is balancing the budget NOW, the place to do it may not be Times Square:
First, Times Square probably isn’t the demographic for this sort of campaign. From the gaudy lights to the piles of tourists assembled even on a cold February afternoon, it’s plain Times Square suffers from neither the recession, nor the immediate effects of our admittedly increasing national debt. And, if there’s a place that proves leveraging and government action work, even in the face of short-term deficits, it’s Times Square, brought out of the gutter in the 1980s by Mayor Koch, who brokered long-term no-tax deals with national chains to attract business to 42nd Street, in the hopes of displacing what had become a small red light district. Now you have to go as far as Eighth Avenue if you want porn — ah, progress!
Smart economics takes time, and it can’t be explained on a billboard. Despite what it says on Sarah Palin’s hand, decreasing the deficit isn’t a matter of cutting spending, and calling it a day. It is past time to talk about the deficit, but a serious discussion starts by severing the mental link between checkbook math, and finance writ large.