What’s happening: The debt has not mattered largely because inflation has been absent from the economic equation.

It’s inflation that raises capital and labor costs for businesses, reduces available capital for investment and clogs government balance sheets, forcing other expenditures to be capped or scrapped. But over the past decade or so, inflation has been a non-factor, even after back-to-back years of above trend growth and government spending binges.

Economists have argued about the reasons, pointing at everything from the internet to the lack of unions to globalization to the way companies have invested their profits. But the end result remains the same.