I don't know how I missed this Charlie Rose roundtable (click on the "Transcript" tab, or scroll up to see the video). It was back in February 2010, and it included Krugman, El-Erian, and David Walker, i.e., the heavyweights. Here are some excerpts:
"I think the extreme deficit that we’re dealing with now is something that came at us out of the blue resulting from a crisis in high finance, a crisis in housing, a crisis in automobiles. The private sector created a lot of the problems that’s given rise to these huge recessionary deficits."
"The way I look at it, there are really just two things that are top of the line. Everything else is secondary. First is health care. Nothing works unless you can get health care costs under control...[and second,] the bulk of it has to involve raising more revenue. "
"And I would say we’re still spending quite a lot of money to keep Soviet tanks from going across Germany, and so if we could stop doing that, that would help."
"Why is it that we want fiscal consolidation and fiscal stability? It’s a means to an end. And the end is growth, employment creation, and welfare creation. Ultimately we look for financial stability and fiscal stability because it’s a means to an end."
"Let me give you my broader take, which is that the United States does worse than anybody at controlling health care costs."
"[L]ook, we need protection against catastrophic accidents and illnesses that could wipe us out financially. It’s the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States."
"Even if they [interest rates] don’t go up, the single largest line item in the federal budget within 12 years will be interest on the federal debt -- larger than defense, larger than Medicare, larger than Social Security. And what do we get for that? Nothing." (David Walker)
"I’m really -- I really hate that calculation. I share your concerns about the long term, but I really hate that calculation. Take the Obama budget, I happen to know the numbers. It says in 10 years we will be spending 3.5 percent of GDP on interest payments. And when did we last do that? We did it when the first George Bush was president. It wasn’t catastrophic then and it isn’t catastrophic now. It’s a very misleading number in calculating the real burden." (Paul Krugman)
"Let me put it this way -- you need a situation where irresponsible rhetoric actually loses people elections. And that has not been the case in America for a while." (Krugman)
"[W]hen you add in the unfunded promises that have been made, this country is in a $60 trillion-dollar hole. Just Medicare and Social Security, pensions and health for civilians and military. That’s three times what it was when George Bush became president. The debt has doubled, more than doubled, since George Bush, this is 43, became president." (David Walker)
"It’s not that our democracy has become dysfunctional. It’s really that we’re going through a paradigm shift. We have a seen a 20 percent increase in the debt to GDP ratio in a very short period of time. We have seen unemployment go up to levels that were unthinkable and is likely to stay there. And this is in a system built on the assumption that unemployment cannot stay high for a long time. That’s why our safety nets are so weak. We have seen major questions being raised about institutions, about the Fed, about the banks. This is a paradigm shift." (El-Erian)
"Let me tell you one other thing I say to my Democratic caucus when we’re trying to pass a budget resolution, referring to the incumbents about what the rest of the world thinks of us. I tell them, if you can’t budget, you can’t govern. That’s the way it is looked upon. And if you look at other, true parliament systems is it particularly a condition or rule of the parliament, if they fail to pass the budget it’s a call for dissolution of the parliament. And frankly we should be held accountable for what we do to a far greater extent than we are." (John Spratt)