Krugman doesn’t have any children, but he is such a collectivist that I am sure that he would claim as much “ownership” over my kids as I might do (although no one “owns” kids). I doubt Krugman’s concern for my children would extend to helping pay the substantial bills that accompany their presence.
The normal “cheating our children” has to do with the belief that through government, Americans of my generation (and Krugman’s too, since he and I were born in the same year) have borrowed such huge amounts of money that the debts either will be paid through inflation or through another means that will place a lot of the younger generation in poverty.
Krugman, however, sees it differently. Our “crime” against the children is not borrowing and spending beyond our present means so that we dump huge financial burdens on them in the future. No, our “crime” is that we are not borrowing and spending enough beyond our present means. That’s right; Krugman claims that by seeking to lessen the future financial burdens on our children, we are cheating them.
Why? Because, according to Krugman, if the government borrows lots of money and then spends it immediately, there actually is no effective opportunity cost. He writes:
Contrary to almost everything you read in the papers or see on TV, debt doesn’t directly make our nation poorer; it’s essentially money we owe to ourselves. Deficits would indirectly be making us poorer if they were either leading to big trade deficits, increasing our overseas borrowing, or crowding out investment, reducing future productive capacity. But they aren’t: Trade deficits are down, not up, while business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly from the slump. (emphasis mine)
He goes on to explain how the lack of current spending is depriving young people of teachers, more aid to college, and, of course, he mentions the “I” word, infrastructure. In Krugman’s view, it is a simple thing; just borrow, print and spend, and a strong economy will appear out of the mixture. Malinvestments? No problem. Just spend enough and the economy will expand to the point where there are no malinvestments.
So, there we have it. Borrow, spend, run up the credit card. We "owe it to ourselves," which means that government borrowing also manages to cheat the Law of Scarcity. Borrow now and the kids won't owe anything at all. The Inflation Fairy will do the rest. Just believe and do it for the children. For the children.