News

Public fear fades over deficit

United States citizens care less about the federal deficit than they have in seven years.

Only 56 percent of residents in the U.S. believe the deficit should be a top priority for the
country, down from 64 percent as of last year, according to a recent study by Pew Research.

The deficit is the lowest it has been since President Obama first took office in 2009 in spite of
the fact that the deficit has risen by $8.3 trillion, according to the National Debt Clock.

The concern over the deficit was highest in 2013, which was Obama’s first year of his second term. At that time 72 percent of residents thought reducing debt should be top priority. Since then, the amount of concern has declined 16 percent. It is now only three percentage points higher than what it was in 2009.

Since Obama took office, the debt ceiling has been raised five times. The continuous raising of the ceiling is a possible factor for the increase in apathy.

“The longer that you are in debt, the less impact it seems to have,” Jacob Russell, junior electrical engineering major, said. “The ceiling is pushed up and up. It feels unreal, like they can just push it as far as they want. It first was a big deal—people were saying, ‘wow, we’re way over budget.’ But now it’s like, ‘well, we’ve always been way over budget.’”

Others believe the issue has not gotten as much publicity not because of how people have gotten used to it, but because they have simply given up.

“It’s gotten to a point where people don’t think anything can be realistically done,” Jed Warren, sophomore mechanical engineering major, said. “First off, people don’t realize how much the deficit is, and second off, they don’t think anything can really be done about it.”

Another possible factor in the public apathy about national debt are the approaching elections. Russell mentioned that the federal deficit is an issue that has not gotten much buzz in the race for the White House.

“You’d think public interest would go up on an election year,” he said. “The focus of the election so far hasn’t really been about debt, it’s been more about terrorism, undocumented
immigration and taxes. The deficit hasn’t been the focus. The big issues have been other hot
topics.”

Warren agreed that the election is a contributing factor to public apathy; however, he explained that it is due to candidates not sticking to the problem-solution formula that has been used in the past. He stated that we are not seeing a “normal discussion of the issues that need to be solved,” which could be a link to why the public doesn’t care as much about a problem like the federal deficit.

“It’s more ‘Donald Trump is going to solve this’ as opposed to ‘Donald Trump is going to solve this by doing this’ which is what you’ve seen before,” Warren said.

Whatever the reason for the public’s apathy, the fact remains—the federal deficit currently sits at over $18.9 trillion.