Complaints about “the economy” are a perennial feature of politics. It would be difficult to name a period of American history when most people thought they were well off and safe from disturbing fluctuations. So Americans are quite right to take forecasts of economic doom with a grain of salt. The biblical writer Jeremiah warned against false prophets—people who cry “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Surpluses and deficits have a major, measurable impact on the performance of the economy, pumping in billions of dollars if the government spends more money than it raises in revenues, and taking large sums of money out of circulation if the government takes in more revenues than it spends. The 1980s has been a decade in which economic trends have been unusually hard to read. The task of the citizen is not easy when politicians of both parties and analysts of all persuasions have biases of their own.