On the coming ‘deficit hysteria’ and other matters

Greetings from Florida (the state with the prettiest name!). On the second day of early voting, I saw a shorter line at Westchester Regional Library, which I pass on my way to the university and the place I consider my second home. Yesterday, though, a Miami Herald reporter and former student said she waited forty minutes in the middle of the afternoon; others waited an hour before polling locations opened. No doubt more Republicans voted yesterday in person than they sent ballots, but, in a shock to conventional wisdom, not by much:

Slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats voted on the first day of early voting in Florida Monday, according to statewide turnout numbers published Tuesday, bucking the trend so far in other battlegrounds where Democrats have logged a sizable early-voting advantage.

Roughly 339,152 voted in person across Florida on Monday, exceeding the vote count four years ago, when about 290,000 cast ballots on the first day of in-person voting, according to the Florida Department of State. About 43 percent of Monday’s voters are registered Republicans, while 42 percent are Democrats and the rest are third-party or unaffiliated.

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Last week I warned Democrats about a Biden administration can expect from the GOP colleagues he thinks will answer his phone calls: a heretofore suppressed appetite for deficit reduction while blubbering about OUR KIDS and THINK ABOUT THEIR FUTURES. Giving him advice he hopes the Beltway Dems in Biden’s circle will read, Paul Krugman agrees. Beside providing rent relief and sending money to state governments, Krugman writes, Washington should invest in an “an environmentally sustainable economy.” And shut up about how much it will cost:

But shouldn’t we be worrying about running up more government debt? No.

When a government can borrow at low interest rates, and in particular when the interest rate on debt is well below the economy’s long-run growth rate, debt just isn’t a major problem. It doesn’t pose any threat to the government’s solvency; it doesn’t in any meaningful way compete with private investment.

And just to be clear, I’m not pushing a radical, heterodox view here. At this point arguing for large-scale deficit spending and a relaxed attitude toward debt is entirely mainstream. You hear arguments along these lines from the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, centrist top economists from the Obama administration, and (discreetly) Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

And how. Consider: two days a federal judge rebuked the Trump administration for being “icily silent” about the fates of the millions of people whom it declared must meet work requirements to qualify for SNAP benefits. Consider too the Trump voter quoted in the Washington Post article cited above: a vote for Trump, she reasons, is a vote to protect her family’s healthcare from Joe Biden’s. Before my readers dismiss the idiocy, I’ll remind them I’ve got relatives who think Democrats want to take away their Social Security and Medicare, a bit like learning Gerald Ford traipsed through the East Wing after hours in drag.

Meanwhile COVID cases in Florida have hovered around 3000-plus a day for the last few days. Makes sense. On October 23, it will have been four weeks since Ron DeSantis held the state at gunpoint when announcing Phase Three reopening.

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