Prudence in good times to avoid austerity in bad times

Economist Valerie Ramey tells readers of the Wall Street Journal “It’s time to start worrying about the national debt.” Ramey notes that the last time debt was as high as it is today, after World War II, budget surpluses helped cut the debt by 12%, but “the main driver of the subsequent steep decline in the debt-to-GDP ratio was the rapid growth of GDP, owing to growth in the real economy as well as to inflation.” Today’s debt is almost all principal because interest rates are low. Ramey ominously reminds, “The Greek government was paying interest rates of between 3% and 5% on its debt during the 2000s, until investors lost confidence and forced interest rates up to 25% by 2012.”

Her final advice should sound familiar to anybody following North Carolina fiscal policy since 2011: “Prudent governments keep their fiscal house in order during good times so that they have more fiscal room to deal with bad times.”

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...

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