Right-Wing Media Erroneously Compare The Federal Budget To A Household Budget

Right-wing media figures are again poised to forward the fallacious notion that household budgets are analogous to the federal budget, an idea in direct opposition to expert opinion.

In an August 26 letter to congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the debt limit would be reached in mid-October. If Congress fails to act and raise the debt limit, the United States will be unable to pay for previously agreed-upon obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare payments.

Previous battles over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations have proven problematic for those in right-wing media. Proponents of exacting spending cuts from Congress frequently compare the federal budget to a typical household budget, ostensibly suggesting that since a household cannot operate with debt, neither can the government.

The upcoming debt limit debate has already prompted right-wing media to forward this deceptive analogy. Previewing Congress' need to raise the debt limit, Fox News host Martha MacCallum likened federal debt to that of a daughter running up a credit card bill.

Of course, numerous economists -- such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein -- have repeatedly stated that comparing household budgets to government budgets demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the subject. This analogy is considered so fallacious that William Baumol and Alan Blinder tackle it directly in an Economics 101 textbook, noting that unlike households, the federal government is able to roll over debt and issue its own currency.

Bad economics hasn't stopped right-wing media before, and the same old falsehoods are likely to reappear during the debt limit debate.