Economics
March 27, 2014

Yesterday, a new one-and-a-half-minute economics video from Ezra Klein's newly formed Vox Media hit the internet. In it, Vox Executive Editor Matt Yglesias explained why the current level of the national debt is neither dangerous nor worrying:

He concludes that "debt just isn't a problem right now," because inflation is currently near historic-lows.

The video stirred up some pretty angry responses from people who think that debt is a problem right now. Red State's Erick Erickson claims some of the video is incorrect and calls Yglesias a liar who is spreading "left-wing propaganda."

Erickson contends that: "[Yglesias] tries to explain the National Debt and out of the gate begins with a lie. He claims the national debt is $5 trillion less than the U.S. Treasury says it is."

But Yglesias is pretty clear that he's excluding debt owed from one arm of the government to another, and only including federal debt held by the public. That is completely rational. After all, money the government owes to itself is simply money moved from one side of the government balance sheet to the other. There's nothing dishonest or disingenuous about citing the lower figure that only includes debt held by the public, especially given that Yglesias was clear about this.

Erickson then contends that: "[Yglesias] uses deficit and debt interchangeably."

But the debt is just the sum of the deficit over many years. So there's nothing wrong with treating them as two manifestations of the same thing so long as you understand that one is an annual figure and the other is the total. Yglesias' point is that the reason to worry about deficits is when they lead to elevated inflation and interest rates, something which we are not currently experiencing. This bases the assessment of debt and deficits around the real world consequences of debt and deficits, instead of hand-wringing over the size of the number, which seems to be what Erickson would rather have us do.

Erickson's next point is that: "[Yglesias] claims the U.S. government can never run out of money."

This, of course, is true. The U.S. government is a monetary sovereign that controls its own state-backed fiat money. Does Erickson think this is untrue? Does he think that the U.S. government can run out of paper and electronic dollars? Does Erickson think that the U.S. is back on the gold standard and therefore can run out of money?

Erickson concludes: "This isn't education. It is not explaining. It is left-wing propaganda. It is also sponsored by General Electric. Why is General Electric sponsoring left-wing propaganda?"

Now, to be fair, I'm not sure Yglesias' video will change many minds. It crams in a baffling quantity of information into a relatively short period. Viewers might on first viewing find it more confusing than enlightening, especially given that the mainstream narrative of the terribleness of government debt and deficits has become so deeply ingrained as "common knowledge."

But everything in the video is technically correct. At the very least it has succeeded in sparking a public debate on the issue of the national debt. And it is very definitely not left-wing propaganda, no matter how much Erick Erickson and other debt fearmongers would like it to be. John Aziz

Baltimore
1:12 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said that the recent events in Baltimore underscore America's need to focus on "economic marginalization," Politico reports.

"We haven't had an agenda for American cities probably since at least Jimmy Carter,” O'Malley said to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. "We have left cities to fend for themselves."

O'Malley also argued against House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)'s suggestion that liberals' poverty solutions have failed over the last 50 years. O'Malley pointed to the decrease in violent crime in Baltimore, as well as lower incarceration rates, saying that Freddie Gray's death and the following riots have been "a heartbreaking setback for an otherwise remarkable comeback."

O'Malley hasn't made any official statements about a Democratic presidential campaign, but he said that if he does announce his candidacy later this month, he "wouldn't think of announcing any place else" than in Baltimore. Meghan DeMaria

Watch this
12:33 p.m. ET

"Chill," commands Saturday Night Live's parody commercial for a Black Widow standalone film. "Marvel gets women."

Scarlett Johansson hosted Saturday Night Live this weekend, and she wasn't afraid to poke fun at the mishaps that occurred during the press junket for her new film, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. One such gaffe? In one interview, Johansson's co-stars Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner called her character, Black Widow, a "slut" and a "whore," for which they have since apologized.

Following the controversy, Saturday Night Live created a trailer focused on the idea that Black Widow's character is about more than her sexuality. Her standalone film — a rom-com — features Black Widow as a young woman struggling to make it in New York City, breaking heels on city streets and interning at a fashion publication. Unfortunately, Black Widow's sartorial success at her internship is quickly overshadowed by her romantic relationships — a thinly-veiled jab at her character's portrayal in the Avengers movies. Check out the faux trailer below. —Meghan DeMaria

Baltimore
11:44 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Sunday that she was lifting a city-wide 10 p.m. curfew, which had been in effect in Baltimore for five nights. The curfew came after riots protesting the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody.

"I have rescinded my order instituting a city-wide curfew," Rawlings-Blake announced on Twitter. "I want to thank the people of Baltimore for their patience." She added that she wanted to "not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary."

Rawlings-Blake's announcement comes a day after a "victory rally" in Baltimore on Saturday celebrating the charges brought against the six police officers involved in Gray's death. Though Saturday's events were mostly peaceful, 20 people were arrested during Saturday night's protests. Meghan DeMaria

This just in
11:25 a.m. ET
Xulio Villarino/Cover/Getty Images

The Italian Coast Guard announced Sunday that it performed a number of rescue efforts off Libya's coast on Saturday.

The Coast Guard saved 3,690 migrants from smugglers' boats. The smugglers had attempted to move the migrants from Africa on motorized rubber dinghies and fishing boats.

Italy brought some of the migrants to Sicilian ports on Sunday, and others are being taken to temporary shelters in Calabria, where they are expected to arrive on Monday. Italy's Coast Guard also announced Sunday that it had recovered 10 bodies off Libya's coast, which were found in three different rescue efforts. Meghan DeMaria

This just in
8:42 a.m. ET

The civilian death toll in the Syrian province of Aleppo has risen to 52, including seven children.

The British-based Observatory for Human Rights announced the figures on Saturday, saying a U.S. air raid on Friday had accidentally struck civilians in a village on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. According to the Observatory's report, the attack killed members of at least six families.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the observatory, told Reuters that Friday's death toll marks the highest civilian loss from a single attack by U.S. and Arab forces since they began air strikes against Islamic militant groups, including ISIS, in Syria. Reuters notes that before Friday's attack, U.S.-led strikes had killed at least 66 Syrian civilians since Sept. 23. The new attack brings the civilian death toll to at least 118. The U.S. military did not confirm the Observatory's report but said it would look into the situation. Meghan DeMaria

Quotables
8:04 a.m. ET
Al Bello/Getty Images

Floyd Mayweather Jr. won Saturday night's "Fight of the Century" in a unanimous judges' decision, but not everyone agreed with the result.

"I thought I won the fight," Manny Pacquiao said after the match. According to Pacquiao, Mayweather was "moving around" during the fight, and "he didn't do nothing."

"I thought I caught him many more times than he caught me," Pacquiao said of Mayweather. "I was never hurt. I was very surprised at the scores. I hit him more times than he hit me."

Mayweather, meanwhile, called Pacquiao a "hell of a fighter." "I tip my hat off to Manny Pacquiao, now I see why he's one of the guys that's at the pinnacle in the sport of boxing," Mayweather said. Meghan DeMaria

undefeated
7:47 a.m. ET
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After beating Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced that he'll soon be hanging up his gloves.

"My last fight is in September, then it's time for me to hang it up," Mayweather said during the post-fight broadcast. "You know, I'm almost 40 years old now, I've been in the sport 19 years, I've been world champion for 18 years, and I'm truly, truly thankful, and I'm blessed."

Saturday's fight brought Mayweather's record to 48-0. If he wins September's match, he'll tie Rocky Marciano's 49-0 career record. Meghan DeMaria

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