You’re mad, Burke! Obama has completely misread the national situation. The United States is careening toward disaster. The deficit this year is the highest in history: $1.48 trillion. In a mere eight years, the national debt will hit 90 percent of G.D.P. Interest payments alone on the debt will be $1 trillion! And he goes before the country with nostalgic happy talk and decides to spend the next two years treading water?
He pats himself on the back for a spending freeze projected to save $400 billion over 10 years. That’s an infinitesimal sliver of the $45 trillion the government will be spending over that time.
Is he aware of the national bankruptcy rushing ever closer? Doesn’t he see that the nation wants a fundamental change in Washington, not a few more tax credits for solar panels?
Obama is going to go down in history as the Nero who fiddled as Rome burned. He reformed health care without changing the ruinous incentives that were bankrupting the system. He submitted budgets that hastened the national collapse. The Republicans accuse him of being a socialist, but, the fact is, he’s Mr. Status Quo.
Brooks advises people to read Tyler Cowen's new book The Great Stagnation. Maybe Cowen explains there exactly what will happen when the national debt hits 90 percent of GDP. Brooks doesn't bother to do that here. The one concrete consequence that occurs to me is that eventually Social Security and Medicare will run out of money without substantial reforms in how they operate. This is related but not identical to the general concern about the size of the deficit and the debt. It will be interesting to see whether the U.S. political system manages to change the entitlement programs in some way before they go bankrupt. But that still doesn't answer the broader question why the deficit and the debt herald, in Brooks's phrase, "national collapse".
UPDATE: Brooks's colleague Mark Shields said on the NewsHour tonight that running a big deficit is bad public policy because it transfers money to bond-holders, who tend to be rich. Huh? Running a big deficit may be bad (in some circumstances), but I think this may be the first time I've heard someone say it's bad because it's upwardly redistributive. Shields also said that no dollar paid on interest on the deficit ever put food in the mouth of a hungry child or built a bridge or.... Of course, what he didn't say is that any given dollar of deficit spending may in fact be doing those things. Or it may not; it depends on which dollar of the budget, so to speak, one looks at. Shields's "reasoning" here would not get a passing grade in Econ 101.