One of the most enduring fights in the field of US politics is the budget deficit. On the right side of the aisle, Republican lawmakers are often asking for better financial planning for the federal government. On the left side of the aisle, Democratic lawmakers are often arguing that the deficit is a good thing, and should be used to advance social programs.
Or, at least, that’s the popular perception. On both sides of the aisle, lawmakers use the deficit to fulfill their policy goals, and both sides of the aisle often wince when the other spends the country further into debt on policies they fundamentally disagree with.
Messaging during campaigns and while debating legislation can often turn to arguments about the US spending on a deficit. Many voters, especially those who tend to vote Republican, are receptive to messaging about the national debt. After all, it’s bad financial planning in your personal finances to take on more debt when you already owe someone money. As such, the messaging is clear and easy to read, even for those who aren’t politically savvy: stop spending so much money!
However, Democrats rarely use this messaging, except when they’re discussing what they view as Republican hypocrisy. When the defense budget, for instance, is prioritized and encourages deficit spending, Democrats might ask their Republican colleagues why their attitude on the debt has suddenly shifted.
Is the Deficit a Good Thing?
There’s a school of thought in political science that the national deficit can be more of a blessing than a curse. Look at it this way: where is the US borrowing money from? On a national scale, you’re looking at loans coming in the form of foreign investment. When allies from overseas are fronting the US money to be paid back later, they’re essentially investing in the US’s future success.
In a sense, this means that the countries that invest in the US have a vested interest in this country performing well, economically. If your buddy owes you money, you’ll help him find a job to pay you back, right?
This aspect of foreign policy also hinges on the US’s reputation. Often, the US sends foreign aid out to allies, and US troops are often seen overseas in a peacekeeping capacity. While the US keeps a benevolent face outward to allies, it makes it more likely that those allies will consider investing in us when we need loans.