Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The truism that debt and deficits matter is fading away among policy elites.

Driving the news: The chorus is telling us don't worry, be happy: The Wall Street Journal: "Worry About Debt? Not So Fast, Some Economists Say" ... Foreign Affairs: "Who’s Afraid of Budget Deficits?" ... NY Times: "How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deficits and Debt."

  • The NY Times' Neil Irwin captures the debtgeist: "Economic orthodoxy that ruled for decades held that fiscal responsibility was inherently good and the national debt a leviathan to fear. Now the intellectual and political currents are flowing — gushing, really — in the opposite direction."

That's after the national debt passed $22 trillion, the most ever — $2 trillion of that while Trump was in office.

  • And despite a strong economy, the deficit last year hit a six-year high.

This is a rare zone of agreement for left, right and center:

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has indicated openness to "modern monetary theory," the idea that deficits don't matter for countries that are running below their economic potential.
  • Trump didn't once mention the debt or budget deficits in this year's State of the Union address — nor did he mention it last year.
  • Warren Buffett, the third richest man in the world (after Bezos and Gates), said in his most recent letter to investors: "Those who regularly preach doom because of government budget deficits (as I regularly did myself for many years) might note that our country’s national debt has increased roughly 400-fold" over the past 77 years.

Why it doesn't matter, from Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin: inflation, which over the past decade or so has been a non-factor, even after back-to-back years of above-trend growth and government spending binges.

  • Economists have argued about the reasons, pointing at everything from the internet to the lack of unions to globalization to the way companies have invested their profits. But the end result remains the same.

The two arguments:

Debt matters ... Axios Future editor Steve LeVine warns against a "glib new gospel."

  • Steve emails: "If debt really doesn't matter, you should be able to print any amount of money without impact. But none of the glib economists will go that far. That's why I call them glib. Because they are suggesting that we go out and spend more when all they really can say is, well, inflation and interest rates are low now."
  • And Fed chairman Jay Powell said in Senate testimony last week: "[I]t is widely agreed that federal government debt is on an unsustainable path. As a nation, addressing these pressing issues could contribute greatly to the longer-run health and vitality of the U.S. economy."

Debt doesn't matter ... Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon: "There is no evidence from 240 years of American history that the level of the national debt has ever really mattered."

  • "The U.S. prints its own currency and can borrow as much as it likes, increasingly from domestic investors. Per Buffett, deficit hawks have preached doom for decades. They have never been proven correct."
Expand chart
Data: FactSet: Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

1 fun thing: A man named Ian Hammond proposes improving American's balance sheet by selling Montana to Canada. The price? Just $1 trillion.

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.