Ocasio-Cortez boosts progressive theory that deficits aren’t so scary

The Democratic Party’s base is rallying around calls for massive social welfare programs like Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee and a Green New Deal — all of which would cost trillions of dollars and potentially bust the budget.

Yet a small but growing chorus of progressives say that policy makers are thinking about deficits all wrong: The red ink, they say, is not that big of a deal.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), told Business Insider last month the notion that the government needn’t worry about balancing its books should be “a larger part of our conversation.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Congress’s current system of finding savings to offset spending increases “doesn’t make any sense.” It is “clear that we need to rethink our financial accounting for the United States,” she said.

“There’s no question in my mind but that [the idea is] gaining traction, just based on my inbox, my voicemail,” said Stephanie Kelton, a leading proponent of a new theory behind deficit spending who served as an adviser on Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. She pointed to an uptick in inquiries from Hill staff, members of Congress and journalists.

To be sure, the debate is still a wonky sideshow for Democrats compared to flashier discussions about taxing the rich, as Ocasio-Cortez and Warren have advocated, and even many progressives are skeptical. But liberal politicians may come to embrace the idea that budget deficits are overstated as they increasingly face pointed questions about how they will pay for their costly proposals.

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