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Deficits

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Newdeal20. Functional deficits for dysfunctional America. As its people suffer as they haven't since the Great Depression, the United States' political elites have turned away from thinking about real human suffering in the name of a pious concern with the abstraction of fighting "deficits".

Functional deficits for dysfunctional America

But if that concern were serious, and not just a political ploy, we'd see the US and the world in a strikingly different light. Three structural/functional deficits - the sustainability deficit, the time/jobs deficit and the equality deficit - revolve around values, choices that we, as a society, make about how to organise the broad patterns of how we live. In Part One, we examined financial deficits. We saw how short-term, mid-term and long-term federal deficits each have strikingly different causes and logics, and how Washington elites' obsessions are premised on confusing them - as well as ignoring state and local deficits. Functional deficits may be harder to quantify than physical deficits, but they are nevertheless quite real and very consequential. America's 13 deficits: Part 1. The United States' most significant economic problem is mass unemployment, not its current deficit or its long-term debt.

America's 13 deficits: Part 1

This is something that both mainstream economists and the general public overwhelmingly agree upon. And yet, for more than a year now, talk about deficits has dominated our politics. President Obama is belatedly trying to shift the focus back to unemployment, and creating jobs to bring unemployment down. But the focus on deficits has become so obsessive it's impossible to really move on without putting them into context.

Surprisingly, one way to do that is simply to go all in, and look at everything in terms of deficits - up to and including our deficit of jobs that pay enough to live on. In this accounting, there are five kinds of deficits: financial, physical, structural/functional, cognitive and political. Short-term federal deficit is due to recession On the one hand, government revenues fall, because economic activity has fallen. America needs a new New Deal. Because the US government, media and political class spent the past year obsessing over the deficit and ignoring unemployment, the economic situation has grown significantly worse - along with the framework of background political assumptions.

America needs a new New Deal

Perhaps the renewed election focus on jobs will provide some temporary relief, though it's unlikely to be more than cosmetic. But given the establishment's relentless focus on deficits, perhaps a counter-intuitive response is best: To view all our problems in terms of deficits. In part one of this essay, I looked at our fiscal deficits: Short- mid- and long-term federal deficits, as well as state and local deficits. I now turn to some other equally if not more important deficits - ones that cannot be so readily re-negotiated, re-structured or otherwise fiddled with. In this part, I describe two physical deficits: the infrastructure deficit and the ecosystem deficit. Rooted as they are in physical laws, they need to be taken far more seriously. America's growing anti-intellectualism.

Story highlights The first high-profile article to offer a sensible explanation of Occupy Wall Street came from anthropologist David Graeber, author of the recently-published book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

America's growing anti-intellectualism

In his op-ed, "Occupy Wall Street rediscovers the radical imagination", he wrote: Actually, Graeber is understating the case, in at least two ways. First, the lies have been with us far longer than just a single decade. They go back at least 30 years, to the elections of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the later of whom became known as "Tina" for her favorite catch-phrase attack on the imagination: "There Is No Alternative".

The first high-profile article to offer a sensible explanation of Occupy Wall Street came from anthropologist David Graeber, author of the recently-published book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years.