Thursday, November 4, 2010

Economist's View: "US Elections: The Deficit Hawks Have Already Won"

Economist's View: "US Elections: The Deficit Hawks Have Already Won":

Mark Thoma cites:

"Jeff Madrick at Triple Crisis: US Elections: The Deficit Hawks Have Already Won, by Jeff Madrick:
Austerity economics has won in Europe. But there is a mythology ... that the U.S., at least, has retained the Keynesian orientation... Not so. The deficit hawks have also largely won in the U.S. The announcement last week that GDP grew at an annual rate of 2 percent only brings the point home: the U.S. needs a serious fiscal injection quickly. But it is not going to get it. ...

Unemployment stands at 9.6 percent and underemployment above 17 percent. The Congressional Budget Office figures GDP could be six percentage points higher before the economy reaches full capacity—that is, before inflation is any real threat. ... With such weakness, a substantial fiscal stimulus will likely have a high multiplier if it is designed correctly– aid to the states, unemployment insurance, some serious investment in infrastructure, and federal employment of idle workers.

But the deficit hawks, backed by many millions of dollars from powerful interests, will hear none of this. ... The fear-mongering has suppressed serious discourse about the need for stimulus now.

President Obama has himself joined the deficit hawks by endorsing a fiscal commission to find ways to reduce the future deficit. ... The administration is also endorsing a three-year freeze on discretionary spending.

With no strong sponsors for stimulus in Washington, the likelihood that the American economy will muddle along at high unemployment rates is now great. Quantitative easing by the Fed won’t do the trick alone. Lower rates are only one side of the equation, demand for loans and investment in a growing economy is the critical other side. Oh, that’s, right, that’s Keynesianism. ...

The deficit hawks now have their sights on bigger game, however. The main cause of the sudden deficit surge is the recession, and after that, the Bush tax cuts and war spending. But the deficit hawks are targeting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which have had nothing to do with the sudden deficit increase.

Their advocacy is based on a disinformation campaign, one so effective they seem to fool themselves. They talk mostly about how an aging population will place an impossible burden on American children when they reach adulthood. And then they focus on Social Security, I suppose because it is the biggest social program out there—so far, that is.

As the CBO notes time and again, however, Social Security payments will only rise from 5 percent to 6 percent of GDP in the 2030s or so and then stay there. Medicare and Medicaid payments will rise from 5 percent of GDP to 10 percent in 2035 and 13 percent in 2050.

Why all the talk about reducing Social Security benefits, then? ... Medicare and Medicaid are going up much faster, not due to aging but mostly because health care costs in general in the U.S. will rise so rapidly. ...

Let’s get Social Security off the table. Let’s put back on the table serious health care reform and then serious increases in taxes to close the looming fiscal gap. We can get the long-term budget deficit down to 3 percent of GDP and not cut social programs, which are among America’s greatest achievements."


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Bozat agrees. 'Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. As Pink Floyd is wont to ask:

    "Hello. Hello. Hello? Is there anyone out there?"

    If Obama's Deficit Commission comes back with recommendations that include raising SocSec retirement age to 70, or reducing its benefits, or retaining caps on the income levels subject to SocSec payroll tax, then I am going to start my own grassroots organization to bombard Tea Baggers and their elected turd-polishers with the tins of cat food that we (the bottom 60%) may otherwise have to subsist on when we finally get to retire.