The next administration and Congress will face a large and growing federal debt. Although everyone recognizes the long-term imbalance between federal spending and revenues, there is ample debate about just how big a problem this is, and the extent to which it should be a priority for lawmakers.
Jason Furman—a Harvard Kennedy School professor and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors—coauthored a 2019 Foreign Affairs essay that argued for accepting that the debt would grow as a share of the economy, prioritizing new investments, and maintaining full Social Security benefits over deficit reduction. For Furman, fiscal consolidations such as tax increases and spending savings should be limited to offsetting expensive new initiatives.
MI senior fellow Brian Riedl, by contrast, offered a more pessimistic view about the fiscal trajectory in a recent issue brief, arguing that lawmakers should prioritize stabilizing the national debt as a share of the economy over the long term. In Riedl’s view, continuously rising debt could bury Washington in interest costs, raise interest rates, and risk a future economic crisis.
Please join the Manhattan Institute on November 12 at 3pm ET as celebrated economists Jason Furman and Brian Riedl engage in a collegial debate, moderated by The Wall Street Journal’s Kate Davidson, about debt, deficits, and what to do about them.