I'm having fun reading the Harstad Strategic Research survey of Millennial voters in the context of the points made by our Republican Senate candidates in last night's debate. A viewer asked the candidates how they respond to Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman's contention that we don't need to worry so much about the national debt, that we can carry the current debt load with normal economic growth. Mike Rounds said Paul Krugman needs to go back to school. Rhoden, Ravnsborg and Nelson joined Rounds in folksy assertions of kitchen-table economics. We can't spend money we don't have, they all intoned... although a majority of American households (69%) spend money they don't have on houses, cars, and other items. (Quick show of hands: how many of you GOP candidates are paying mortgages?)
In other words, Uncle Sam is carrying less debt proportionate to income than most families are carrying in mortgages and car payments. If we ran our federal budget like the median household, we could plunk $5 trillion in stimulus into the economy tomorrow and reach the same debt-income ratio as Mom and Pop.
In further kitchen-table inconsistency, Jason Ravnsborg says we have to lower our debt by cutting taxes. Once again, pass the bacon and the household budget: when we see debt or other expenses increasing in our family budget, we never say, "Gee, we should address this problem by making less money." We generally look for ways to take in more money. So is Ravnsborg telling us that government budgets really don't work like household budgets? Or is he just confused?
The Millennials surveyed by HSR are less worried about the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics and more worried about just solving problems. Consider their take on raising taxes. 54% of the age 18-to-33 respondents said they favor raising taxes "to pay for priorities like education, health care, and fixing roads, bridges and other infrastructure." But only 42% said they favor raising taxes "to pay down the national debt."
Just like most Americans, Millennials think avoiding debt is less important than taking care of basic needs. Their responses on tax increases suggest that they understand that debt is a normal and manageable part of American life, in government and at the kitchen table.