Archive for category Deficit
“White House Down” (2013)
Via Think Progress.
Remember all those Tea-GOP predictions about what 2015 would be like if President Obama’s doomed Marxist regime was allowed keep running the country into the ground?
- Newt Gingrich, running for the GOP nomination in 2012, predicted that if Obama was re-elected gas would be “$10 a gallon.” Gingrich promised $2.50 gas if he was elected.
- In September 2012, Mitt Romney predicted that if Obama was re-elected “you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue four years or longer.” At the time, the unemployment rate was 8.1%. Romney pledged that, if elected, he could bring the unemployment rate down to 6% by January 2017.
- On Bloomberg TV, Marc Faber predicted that, because of Obama’s reelection, the stock market would drop at least 20%. Faber joked that investors seeking to protect their assets should “buy themselves a machine gun.”
- Rush Limbaugh predicted that “the country’s economy is going to collapse if Obama is re-elected.” Limbaugh was confident in his prediction: “There’s no if about this. And it’s gonna be ugly. It’s gonna be gut wrenching, but it will happen.”
Today, the nationwide average for a gallon of gas is $2.24. The unemployment rate currently stands at 5.8% and has been under 6% since September 2014. The Dow Jones Industrial Average currently stands at 17,823 and is up over 35% since Obama was reelected. The Dow has climbed more than 10,000 points during the Obama administration. The U.S. economy grew at a robust 5% in the 3rd quarter of 2014, following 4.6% growth in the second quarter.
Why couldn’t the Tea-GOP predict declining wages? People who work for a living need a raise, badly.
A couple key passages:
The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.
Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.
And finally this one:
How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.
“Yes – Fox News actually just admitted that Obamacare would reduce the deficit. Republicans have continually repeated the lie that Obamacare increases the deficit; it doesn’t.”
From Fox News’ September 6 2012 Democratic National Convention coverage:
Full video HERE.
This chart shows both the increase in revenues and costs and the line in the middle shows the impact on the deficit by year. If the line is below zero then it reduces the deficit and if the line is above zero – it increases the deficit. You can see…the estimate is that it reduces the deficit: Source
The new estimates reflect a couple of factors. The Congressional Budget Office lists them:
– An increase of $168 billion in projected outlays for Medicaid and CHIP;
– A decrease of $97 billion in projected costs for exchange subsidies and related spending;
– A decrease of $20 billion in the cost of tax credits for small employers; and
– An additional $99 billion in net deficit reductions from penalty payments, the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans, and other effects on tax revenues and outlays—with most of those effects reflecting changes in revenues.
Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic digs into the details and rebuts those Republicans who INCORRECTLY say Obamacare now costs double:
To figure out the cost of health care reform, CBO looks at each of the law’s component parts and, for accounting purposes, groups them into different categories. It calls one category “gross cost of coverage expansions” – that’s the amount of money the federal government will spend to help people get insurance, mostly by offering Medicaid to more people or giving people subsidies they can use to help offset the cost of private insurance. Last year, CBO estimated that the gross cost of coverage expansion from 2012 through 2021 would be $1.445 trillion. Now CBO thinks the gross cost will be $1.496 trillion. The number shifted, in part, because the CBO has changed its projections for economic growth. (MSNBC’s Tom Curry has a nice explanation of this.) But, in the context of such a large a budget projection, that’s barely any difference at all.
First, Reinhart and Rogoff excluded the post-war years for certain countries that enjoyed robust economic growth despite debt levels well over 90 percent. They also chose a skewed method of weighting the data: for example, New Zealand’s single year of terrible growth while over the 90 percent threshold wound up counting just as much as Britain’s 19 years of healthy growth. And they even incorrectly input at least one Excel spreadsheet formula, wrongly excluding several countries form their calculations.
In short, the central argument in support of austerity — cited by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the New York Times’ David Brooks, and multiple times by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — is now defunct. No one disputes that a country should avoid a big build-up in debt over the long-term. But every concrete signal we’re getting from the American economy — our high unemployment, our low inflation, our extraordinarily low interest rates, and our negative real interest rates — are a signal that more debt spending in the short term to fight the depression is perfectly appropriate. Thanks to the austerity drive that was heavily influenced by Reinhart and Rogoff’s study, American lawmakers ignored those signals (and plenty of others) and cut spending, delivering the most destructive fiscal policy we’ve had in any recession since at least 1980.
Why do we take these people seriously again?
The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget promises to create 7 million new jobs in one year, and includes $4.4 trillion in deficit reduction and $112 billion in infrastructure investment. That beats any other budget proposal in Washington, by far – including the Obama administration’s yet-to-be-released budget. And it won’t cut Medicare benefits to pay for more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.
[T]alk of a fiscal crisis has subsided. Yet the deficit scolds haven’t given up on their determination to bully the nation into slashing Social Security and Medicare. So they have a new line: We must bring down the deficit right away because it’s “generational warfare,” imposing a crippling burden on the next generation. …
…Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.
My initial response to that question was to say, “Huh?”
But we’re talking about complex, interconnected systems. The argument goes something like this:
Start by recognizing that international economics and politics are a set of networks. Each national economy is a network connected to a larger, international network. These networks have key nodes. In terms of finances, the US and UK are two nodes whose influence is outsized simply because they are connected to so many other networks. The more links a network has to other networks, the easier it is to spread problems.
. . . if contagion spreads across links, network topology will have important consequences for the likelihood of spread. As it turns out, there is strong reason to believe that the international financial system is one of the latter kinds of networks rather than one of the former. On two measures of financial ties, most countries on the periphery of the network have few links to other peripheral countries, but pretty well everyone has links to the US, and many have links to the UK too.
In other words, the US exported its economic downturn to the rest of the world when our financial system crashed. What does that have to do with Iraq?
Military Keynesianism, says Thomas Oatley.
Now consider the Iraqi case. The sharp increase of military spending sparked by 9/11 and Iraq followed a massive tax cut (and coincidentally, we had a massive tax cut in 1964). Like Vietnam, therefore, the US borrowed to pay for the War on Terror. If the Vietnam War experience is any guide, this budget deficit must have had consequences for US macroeconomic and financial performance. The deficit was larger and persisted for longer than the Vietnam case. I argue that the choice to finance the War on Terror by borrowing rather than by raising taxes worsened the US external imbalance and the resulting “capital flow bonanza” triggered the US credit boom. The credit boom generated the asset bubble the deflation of which generated the great global crisis from which we are still recovering. Obviously, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to get from the war-related budget deficit to the global financial and economic crisis.
Oatley is writing a book exploring this theory.
In a less networked, less connection international economy, the effects of the US economic crash might have been limited to the US. Instead, however, the distortions of the US economy caused by the spending for the War on Terror in general and the Iraq war specifically, and the massive tax cuts that caused us to pay for it through borrowing, created ripples in the US economy the ultimately caused a US crash which, through our connection to all the networks, casued a worldwide economic crash.
Everything is connected to everything else. We’re talking aobut complex systems here, systems playing out in unexpected ways. It’s a prime example of the levels of complexity Adam Kahane talks about – social, dynamic and generative complexity working concurrently in crazy making ways. Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 causing a crash in 2008? The Iraq war causing a global economic meltdown? It seems daft until you start thinking about interlocking parts connected to other interlocking parts. So, in a way, you can start building a case that the 2001 Bush Tax cuts are ultimately responsible for the economic problems in Greece, Spain and Cyprus.
One of Oatley’s colleagues explores the idea further, arguing that there’s a distinction between core and peripheral nodes and their crises. A peripheral node crisis is unlikely to spread further while a core node crisis will spread further:
Or take the examples of Iceland and Ireland. Iceland repudiated the debt of its banks, imposed capital controls, and told international investors to take a hike. Once again, this is a recipe for contagion yet systemic crisis did not result. Ireland did the opposite: it guaranteed the debt of its banks, did not institute capital controls, and paid off international investors. Systemic crisis also did not result. The opposite local policy response produced the same global outcome. Only the local outcome varied.
Contrast those cases (and all the other eurozone cases, and Argentina, and E Asia, and etc.) with the US in the Fall of 2008. A couple days of dithering — of the sort that the eurozone has made its speciality — lead to an immediate and profound downturn in global markets, including the largest single-day evaporation of wealth in absolute terms in history. The US tried to kick the can down the road, but couldn’t because it is the core node; the EU has been able to repeatedly kick the can down the road because those crises are in the periphery.
I conclude from this that policy always matters locally, but it only matters systemically when the crisis is in a core node. No matter what the policy response to peripheral crises is, systemic contagion is exceedingly unlikely.
This is a fascinating intellectual exploration. The part that should have been predictable but apparently wasn’t is the transmittability of economic problems throughout the network designed to facilitate capital flows. The US exported its financial crash to the rest of the world.
Americans’ personal income decreased $505.5 billion, or 3.6 percent, in January (on a seasonally adjusted and annualized basis), according to the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. It was the biggest one-month drop in 20 years.
Consumer spending rose just 0.2% with most of it going toward higher heating bills and filling up the gas tank. Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of the U.S. economy.
The drop in income was partly driven by the end of the payroll tax cut, which means middle-class workers must pay 2 percentage points more in taxes this year on wages up to $110,000. But Congress has made the Bush Tax Cuts permanent for 98 percent of Americans, all except families with income more than $450,000 and individuals making more than $400,000.
Right-wing Republicans now declare that any ideas about raising tax rates or eliminating loopholes to boost revenue are off the table. They demand “cuts-only” deficit reduction. This means $85 billion in “automatic” austerity budget cuts kick in today (although Congress can cancel this so-called “sequester” anytime). The result will be a partial government shutdown, as many agencies are forced to furlough employees beginning in April.
Meanwhile, even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that the Washington obsession with budget deficits is hurting the economic recovery. The immediate crisis is our jobs deficit. Robert Reich:
Unemployment is still sky high. The current official rate of 7.9 percent doesn’t include 8 million people (5.6 percent of the workforce) working part-time who’d rather be working full time. Nor those too discouraged even to look for work. The ratio of workers to non-workers in the adult population is lower than any time in the last thirty years — and that’s hardly explained by boomer retirements.
Wages continue to drop because the only way many Americans can find (or keep) jobs is by settling for lower pay. Most new jobs created since the depth of the Great Recession pay less than the jobs that were lost. That’s why the real median wage is now 8 percent below what it was in 2000.
…The budget deficit and cumulative debt are not the “transcendent issue of our time.” The transcendent issue is jobs and wages. Cutting the budget deficit now will only result in higher unemployment, lower wages, and more suffering.
The next opportunity for Republican economic sabotage will be on March 27, when the continuing budget resolution expires.
Once again, President Obama is pressing for a “Grand Bargain” that basically gives the right-wing Republican Party everything they have been asking for. The President wants to implement cuts to Social Security and Medicare, coupled with across-the-board discretionary spending reductions (aka austerity budgeting), and tax reform. You may recall that Willard (“Mitt”) Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, talked constantly about a plan to eliminate tax deductions during the 2012 election campaign.
So, basically, Obama is telling the right-wing “Here’s something you want, and something else you want, and I’m not going to ask for anything that progressives want.” And the GOP answer so far is a big fat NO. They would rather take the blame for a partial government shutdown. Does this make sense?
Jonathan Chait tries to explain:
President Obama is offering up something — hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security and Medicare — that Republicans say they want and which (because of their unpopularity) they have proven unable to obtain even when they have had full control of government. They are instead undertaking a public showdown against a figure who is vastly more popular and trusted, who possesses a better platform to communicate his message, and whose message itself — spread the pain among rich and middle class alike, don’t cut retirement programs more deeply than needed in order to protect tax loopholes for the rich — commands overwhelmingly higher public support.
I think the Republican Party’s behavior can be at least partly explained, though not necessarily rationalized. The main thing that’s going on is that, in the face of cross-pressures, the party’s anti-tax wing has once again asserted its supremacy.
…Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They’re happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans.
…The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period.
Robert Reich offers a better strategy for President Obama: Clear up all the confusion by taking on the Republicans’ big lies directly.
The first big lie is austerity economics — the claim that the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.
Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession — which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.
The second big lie is trickle-down economics — the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they’re the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.
Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.
The Obama administration doesn’t have to play this crazy game of offering right-wing Republicans everything they say they want, knowing that they will refuse to take it. What they ought to be doing is explaining to the public that the right-wing is wrong, that they are lying.
Republicans have run on big across-the-board spending cuts for literally decades.
…But here we are. For the first time I think in our history we are about to go over the precipice of genuine across-the-board spending cuts. And Republicans are completely freaking out. There’s no other way to describe it.
Via TPM: “The jig is up. Republicans are going to increase the debt limit. Probably for free.”
First, the “Hastert rule” isn’t actually all that big a deal (it’s not really a rule). Republicans are now saying that the principle that legislation shouldn’t come to the House floor unless the majority of the GOP conference supports it only applies when there is a Republican in the White House.
Both the “fiscal cliff” deal and a relief bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy recently passed the House without a “majority of the majority” voting for them.
Second, the so-called “Boehner rule,” which requires a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit, is really, truly dead.
Third, Republicans’ big talk about forcing a partial government shutdown to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debts has faded away.
Via Jason Linkins on HuffPo.
Yes, with platinum bullion at $1,587 per ounce you would need almost 20 tons of platinum to have $1 trillion worth. Whether this would sink the RMS Titanic is a moot point, because that ship sank more than 100 years ago. The point is, that’s not how money works. According to a 1996 law, the U.S. Treasury can mint a platinum coin of any denomination.
Yes it’s silly to think of avoiding default with a coin, but it’s even sillier to think that refusing to pay the bills for congressional appropriations might be a good idea (it’s actually unconstitutional).
UPDATE: FDL’s Jon Walker points out that if Congress refuses to raise the debt limit, without the $1 trillion coin the President has to make a choice of which law(s) to break:
The President could ignore just the debt limit law and continue to fulfill all the spending laws. Or, the President could fulfill the debt limit law, but that would require ignoring multiple other laws which would force the President to randomly pick who does and does not get paid.
UPDATE: Paul Krugman: Mint that coin!