Americans Are Frighteningly Clueless on the Deficit

I blame the media for the results of this poll showing that people don't understand the fiscal cliff or the deficit. In my experience, they're far more clueless on the deficit and don't know the difference between the deficit and the debt.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans think the deficit will stay the same or grow higher if we careen off the cliff. 28 percent "don't know." They're all totally wrong. If we economy slides over the hypothetical cliff, the deficit will go down. Way down. The economy will be potentially hurt by it, but the deficit will go down.

For your friends who don't understand the difference between the deficit and debt, here's a brief guide. The budget deficit is the difference between the money spent by the government in a given year and the money it takes in via taxes, etc. The current deficit for 2012 is $1.1 trillion (and falling). The national debt is the amount of money we owe to creditors, both internally and externally. This includes bond-holders and, of course, the cumulative dollar amount of the annual deficits.

The more you know...

  • D_C_Wilson

    I’ll bet that same 60 percent can tell you who won the last American Idol, though.

  • Beth

    I tried explaining the difference between debt and deficit to a wingnut cousin in law. I told him that his home mortgage was debt and if he has a mortage of $1000 per month but only brings home $500 per month, he has a deficit of $500 per month. He still couldn’t grasp the fact that the two terms are not interchangeable. I also asked him what he paid in federal taxes last year – either an amount or a percentage. He had no idea but he could tell me to the penny how much he paid for his new jet ski and big screen tv. But he’s a proud member of the “taxed enough already” party.

    • agrazingmoose

      You have my sympathies. My family ended up divorcing all the wingnuts.

      • IrishGrrrl

        Oh if only we could!

  • bphoon

    The media comes in for plenty of blame for this gross misunderstanding. When anchors, aka news actors, use the words “debt” and “deficit” interchangably, it not only sews confusion amongst the public, it shows, glaringly, the actors’ lack of comprehension of even the most basic concepts of US economics.

    The hell of it is, it only takes the barest minimum of research to figure out the difference between debt and deficit. Whoever is writing the pap they keep putting out–be it the actors themselves, copy writers, producers, who-the-fuck-ever–needs only to type each of those words into a Google search box and read the web pages that come up. Takes maybe five minutes, tops.

    When dipshits try to “inform” other dipshits, you get bigger dipshits.

  • trgahan

    Thanks for the lesson! Here I was under the impression that the debt and deficit were the same thing and Democrats use it to destroy America, put us under the control of China/the UN/teachers unions.

    But Republicans use the debit/deficit because, well, you’re not really supposed to question a war time president about such things and why do you hate America?!?

  • rob black

    Worse, trying to explain it, in the most simple terms, to a Fauxite is like administering a shot of Demerol to them.
    Their glare of disbelief turns in to glazed over stare as they literally turn their minds to the “off” position. It’s not just that they don’t know, its that they don’t want to know.
    The full knowledge would collapse their entire house of cards in to a heap. The real world would stand naked before them, as they realized it had all been a sham. They would puke like Neo.

    • mzmijewski

      They have their minds turned on? Wow, who would have known?

  • tifosies

    Remember Cheney saying “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

    • Brutlyhonest

      He had a caveat he mumbled off-mic. To wit: “As long as there is a republican in the White House.”

  • zirgar

    I didn’t know the difference between a lot of words or concepts either, until I learned to speak English at the age of 1/2.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Why do you think the GOP made the debt and deficit the focus of their collective campaign over the past four years? Clueless, confused people can be talked into anything.

    Bear in mind that most people don’t know anything about the deficit/debt because no one was talking about it prior to 20 January 2009. And the only people who have been talking about it since then have been lying through their teeth.

    • Brutlyhonest

      Our corporate media is so complicit in this “misunderstanding”. Dick quotes because I believe it’s willful misrepresentation to keep the sheeple in line.

    • D_C_Wilson

      And the moment a republican is sworn in as president, every teabagger who’s been screaming about “out of control gubment spending” will suddenly forget who outraged they were about it.