In the fall of 2007, when the U.S. economy first seemed in peril, I began answering reader queries here on the Business Desk. I still do so occasionally, but this page has expanded to include posts from eminent economists, "far-flung correspondents," and a variety of voices that have intriguing and/or useful things to say about economics, broadly defined. Please feel encouraged to respond to any and all of them.
Question/Comment: Paul, please keep up your enlightening NewsHour segments. My question: How much national debt is a good thing? Generational fairness clearly calls for limits, but despite the many voices weighing in on this issue, I have yet to hear a cogent explanation of how much debt we can tolerate without significant consequences on our economy.
Paul Solman: That's because there isn't any good benchmark. Some countries run a higher ratio of debt-to-GDP than we do. During World War II, our own ratio was far higher than today.
When you look at future entitlement obligations, however, and the arguable need for major expenditures on, say, education and/or infrastructure, not to mention warfare, our debt level would seem to be a cause for concern. And may well be a reason the U.S. dollar has dropped so violently in value of late.