National debt: Acceptable imbalance

National debt: Acceptable imbalance
Image: Eric Helgas, styling by Alex Citrin-Safadi
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As individuals, we know it’s not great to have too much debt. But at the macro level, that narrative falls apart. In fact, most governments need some debt to take care of their people, especially in the wake of a crisis like a pandemic. How a country invests in itself—and how its leaders talk about that investment—says a lot about how it sees its future.

Sponsored by EY

Is your technology moving fast enough to realize your ambitions? Learn more in the latest EY Tech Horizon Survey: ey.com/techhorizon

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher


Kira Bindrim is the host of the Quartz Obsession podcast. She is an executive editor who works on global newsroom coverage and email products. She is obsessed with reading and reality TV.

Nate DiCamillo is an economics reporter at Quartz. He is obsessed with swimming, financial crises, and narratives that drive economic events.

Show notes

Quantitative easing

Debt-to-GDP ratio

New Keynesianism and its founder, John Maynard Keynes

Modern monetary theory

Pew 2020 survey—47% of surveyed Americans say the federal budget deficit is “a very big problem,” down from 55% in 2018

2021 interview with Joe Manchin in which he mentions that every morning an aide texts him how much the national debt has grown since the day before

This episode uses the following sounds from freesound.org and Incompetech.com:

old cash register open and close with a bing by clubmydia+

Limit 70 by Kevin McLeod

cash register old antique press buttons mechanical mechanism echo.wav by kyles

Till-Gong-Bike remixes of kiddpark’s Freesound #201159.wav by Timbre

Read the full transcript here.