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Are We Really Drowning In Red Ink? A Closer Look At Our Non-Exceptional Debt And Deficit Crisis


Because debt is cumulative and generates interest, it has shot up dramatically in the past three years and is at its highest levels in about 70 years.

The above graphs are based on data collected by Office of Management and Budget. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the data that suggests Congress' priorities are out of whack. Currently, civilian unemployment is higher than at any point in the post-war period save for a brief spike in the early 1980s when the Federal Reserve briefly used contractionary monetary policy to fight inflation. Already its clear that unemployment is falling much more slowly than it did in 1981. And when people get back to work, revenues will climb, and deficits will shrink on their own.

So as this debate enters its most important phase, remember that by historical standards the debt and deficit numbers aren't nearly as startling as some would have you believe. But also keep in mind that current projections, particularly for debt, will be driven by soaring health care costs to exceed historical highs dramatically.

About The Author


Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at