Let's use my family to illustrate the truth about this often repeated Republican talking point and deduce the sense of it. That truth, and sense, is that Republicans are both completely wrong about this issue while, paradoxically, their slogan is completely right.
I grew up living "above the store" where my mother ran her business, back then called a "beauty shop". My father was a dead fry cook and my step-father worked on an assembly line. Mrs. Left's father strung wires on an aircraft assembly line, her mother was a clerk in a wholesale warehouse and her step-father was a TV repairman. Before our generation, no one in either of our families had ever graduated from college and only a few had completed high school.
Mrs. Left and I met in college 45 years ago. We married in 1970. We have raised two daughters to adulthood, afforded them undergraduate college educations at major universities and plan to retire next year. We are both professionals, in public service, employed in the federal government presently. From near the beginning of our life together, Mrs. Left and I have been in debt and paid out interest to a variety of creditors, for our own educations, our cars, our homes, our credit lines and our children's educations.
Follow me into the tall grass for more on why I think America should balance its budget just like my American family has, that is, not.
Debt, in its proper place, is not a bogeyman, either for national or family budgets. Our first credit card was from Sears and we got it because we wanted a TV and couldn't afford to pay cash. By then, we had already been paying bank loans on our cars for years. Thanks to the GI Bill we were able to finance our first home when we were still in our mid twenties.
Over the years since then, we have changed jobs, lived in different parts of the country and financed various homes, credit card balances and student loan debts, all while remaining employed in professional positions. Though miniscule by Wall Street standards, our incomes have fortunately outpaced the cost of servicing and amortizing these debts. We have enjoyed, as a family, a general prosperity from having incurred the debts. Inasmuch as Mrs. Left and I contemplate retiring next year, after we turn 65, we have been paying down the debts in preparation for that. The student loans are covered by life insurance and we are paying off one last credit card balance.
But the United States Government doesn't need to prepare for retirement. Thus, the cost of financing the national debt can more easily be serviced without unduly burdening the national economy. Long term debt is a matter of much less importance to an immortal entity like the United States than such debt must be to mortals like you and me.
So, as I see it, America Should Balance Its Budget Just Like American Families Do, or at least like my American family has done, by incurring debt to support prosperity. The Republican slogan is absolutely right; the Republican policy is totally wrong.