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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

February 12, 2016
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image

On Friday, New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia made Major League Baseball history by becoming the first player to be permanently banned from the league for using performance-enhancing drugs. This marks Mejia's third positive test for PED use in a single calendar year, after he failed a drug test in April 2015 and then another three months later. The Mets said in a statement they were "deeply disappointed" in Mejia, who can apply for reinstatement to the MLB in one year, but would have to sit out a minimum of two years before returning to major league action. Kimberly Alters

February 12, 2016
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On Friday afternoon, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore announced the suspension of his campaign for president. Although, one could be forgiven forgetting he was even in the race — the long-shot Republican candidate's decision comes after dismal performances in both the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus, where he received the support of a measly 12 caucusgoers.

Gilmore's fellow GOP hopefuls Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina also dropped out of the race earlier this week after poor showings in New Hampshire.

And then there were six. Stephanie Talmadge

February 12, 2016
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A Pennsylvania judge posted a sign outside his courtroom reminding citizens that pajama bottoms should not be worn in court. Judge Craig Long said that too many people have been appearing before him without bothering to put on a proper pair of pants. "We have a growing problem of people not dressing appropriately," Long said. "It's just there as a reminder." The Week Staff

February 12, 2016
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With House Republicans still divided on how to move forward with plans to pass the budget, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reminded lawmakers Friday that there's always the option to just skip the budget altogether. "It would be a shame, but the sky won't fall if we don't do a budget," Ryan said to members at a closed-door meeting. Because of a two-year deal struck last fall between then-Speaker John Boehner and the Obama administration, Ryan contends Congress is not "staring down a cliff" that would force them to make a final call.

However, Ryan warned members, this choice would not come without repercussions. If House Republicans decided against doing a budget, Ryan said the Republican Party would essentially be missing out on a chance to "do big things" in 2017. The GOP would not be able to present their fiscal solutions to the public ahead of the presidential election, nor would they be able to pass all 12 appropriations bills, essentially forcing Congress back into its "crisis-driven cycle of passing spending bills" that Ryan has been trying to avoid, The Hill reports.

Republicans are at an impasse over the prospect of passing a budget that sticks to the previously agreed upon $1.07 trillion spending level. Others are pushing for increased military spending, which Ryan pointed out could only increase by $40 million within current spending levels. "Are House Republicans willing to give up appropriations bills, a balanced budget, entitlement reform, and reconciliation for $40 million?" Ryan asked Friday.

House Republicans have until the beginning of March to reach a decision on how to proceed with the budget plan. Becca Stanek

February 12, 2016

On Friday, Donald Trump threatened fellow GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz with a lawsuit over Cruz's eligibility to run for president:

Though Cruz, who was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, has maintained that he is a natural-born citizen and thus eligible to run for office, the constitutionality of his presidential run has been challenged — particularly by Trump.

However, Trump had previously promised that he would not sue Cruz over the issue. "I'm not bringing a lawsuit," Trump said at a January Republican presidential debate. "I promise." Becca Stanek

February 12, 2016
Courtesy image

Meals on a yacht or private jet were such cheerless affairs before the Hemisphere Marine Blue Collection ($78) came along. The new porcelain set, produced by silver retailer Michael C. Fina and based on a classic pattern by the house of Jean-Louis Coquet, brightens such repasts with its splashes of "jaunty" blue, said Michalene Busico at RobbReport. More than that, though, the set is thinner and lighter than traditional china, and features stabler bases plus more generous rims for catching spills. If you're waiting on delivery of a yacht, don't rule out using the set at a summer home. The Week Staff

February 12, 2016
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While there is a lot of money and research that goes into the study of relationships, a certain amount of mystery remains about why people tend to cling to the memory of their first love. Speaking to a number of psychologists who study relationships and romance, The Washington Post floated several theories as to why we still can't get over that certain someone, no matter how many years go by. Below, a selection of some experts' most illuminating quotes. Jeva Lange

It was sort of scary, and that makes it memorable.

"Your first experience of something is going to be well remembered, more than later experiences. Presumably there'd be more arousal and excitement, especially if it's somewhat scary. And falling in love is somewhat scary — you're afraid you'll be rejected, you're afraid you won't live up to their expectations, afraid they won't live up to yours. Anxiety is a big part of falling in love, especially the first time." -Art Aron, State University of New York at Stony Brook psychology professor

It was when we learned what love is.

"I [...] think it becomes, to some degree, a template. It becomes what we measure everything else against.”

-Jefferson Singer, Connecticut College psychologist

"Together you decide what love is."

-Nancy Kalish, California State University at Sacramento psychology professor

We experience a 'memory bump.'

"[People between 15 and 26] recall more memories, and they tend to be more positive memories... [And] we have more opportunity to rehearse it and replay it, rethink it, reimagine it, re-experience it." -Singer

We like who were were then.

"I think it's not just about the other person. It's about who we were at that time. We're relishing the image of ourselves. They give us license to be the person we were once again — young and vibrant and beautiful." -Singer

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