Policy Note 2004/2 | May 2004

Those “D” Words

Deficits, Debt, Deflation, and Depreciation

Recent economic commentary has been filled with “D” words: deficits, debt, deflation, depreciation. Deficits—budget and trade—are of the greatest concern and may be on an unsustainable course, as federal and national debt grow without limit. The United States is already the world’s largest debtor nation, and unconstrained trade deficits are said to raise the specter of a “tequila crisis” if foreigners run from the dollar. Federal budget red ink is expected to imperil the nation’s ability to care for tomorrow’s retirees. While public concern with deflationary pressures has subsided, concern continues regarding America’s ability to compete in a global economy in which wages and prices are falling. In fact, the current situation is far more “sustainable” than that at the peak of the Clinton boom, which had federal budget surpluses but record-breaking private sector deficits. Nevertheless, it is time to take stock of the dangers faced by the US economy.

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