America's Deficit Attention Disorder

| 8/13/2012 10:17:40 AM

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 Korten mugshotDr. David Korten ( is the author of Agenda for a New Economy, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the WorldHe was recognized as an Utne Reader Visionary in 2011

Editor’s note: This post was originally published by YES! Magazine, and is licensed under Creative Commons. To repost, follow these steps.

The political debate in the United States and Europe has focused attention on public financial deficits and how best to resolve them. Tragically, the debate largely ignores the deficits that most endanger our future.

In the United States, as Republican deficit hawks tell the story, “America is broke. We must cut government spending on social programs we cannot afford. And we must lower taxes on Wall Street job creators so they can invest to get the economy growing, create new jobs, increase total tax revenues, and eliminate the deficit.”

Democrats respond, “Yes, we’re pretty broke, but the answer is to raise taxes on Wall Street looters to pay for government spending that primes the economic pump by putting people to work building critical infrastructure and performing essential public services. This puts money in people’s pockets to spend on private sector goods and services and is our best hope to grow the economy.”

Democrats have the better side of the argument, but both sides have it wrong on two key points.

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Milt Lee
8/17/2012 2:31:01 PM

I really liked this article. It expresses what I have felt for many years. I just didn't realize why it's so difficult to express all of this - mostly because I didn't realize how pervasive the present (old) way of thinking is.Thanks for expressing it for me.

Gwynn O'Neill
8/15/2012 8:13:17 PM

It is a relief to feel the scaley crust of illusions fall away, as I read this article by Korten. The emperor indeed has no clothes. I am reading "Debt: the first 5000 years" by David Graeber. It is an analysis of how we got to our present crisis. And from it I can see why we are set in our ways, and don't question the assumptions that Korten shows are illusions. What Korten does not address is how to open discussion so that anyone tossing out a label, such as "naive", or unrealistic" or socialism", or racist", often shuts down discussion. Discussion becomes debate, a dueling match (or worse, a shouting match) with winners, but truth is sidelined. How to work with that? Maybe more simple honesty? Wall street has looted the country as a whole; "looted" is the appropriate word. And it does open the discussion to defining that looting in detail.

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