Home » Posts tagged 'government spending'

Tag Archives: government spending

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Not Modern, Not About Money, and Not Really Much of a Theory

NOT MODERN, NOT ABOUT MONEY, AND NOT REALLY MUCH OF A THEORY

“Ignoring MMT’s rising popularity would be about as smart (and effective) as a dog barking at the waves in the ocean.”
–KEVIN MUIR, author of the avant garde financial newsletter, The Macro Tourist

“I believe that all good things taken to an extreme become self-destructive and that everything must evolve or die. This is now true for capitalism.”
–RAY DALIO, founder of hedge fund behemoth, Bridgewater Associates

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION

The final lap. It’s hard to believe that as recently as February, when I first brought up the concept of a new economic model that was poised to radically alter the world we’re living in, MMT was as obscure as an extra in an old Cecil B. DeMille bible film. Yet, a mere two months later, you have to try extremely hard to ignore Modern Monetary Theory and its swelling number of disciples.

Perhaps at this point, some of you who have read the three previous installments of our month-long series on MMT wish I’d never brought it your attention. You might even think it’s such a zany idea that it will never see the light of day. If so, you could be right—but I doubt it.

Prior issues of this series have made the point that ultra-low and, even, negative interest rates have led to a boom in asset prices at the expense of the real economy. This has created the most lop-sided income distortion since 1929.

Source: Grant Williams, TTMYGH (2/10/2019)

Even after 10 years of a long and sluggish expansion—which happily has driven unemployment down to 50-year lows–there is an unmistakable whiff of outrage in the air. The non-1% or, perhaps more accurately, the non-5%, are coming to believe they’ve been stiffed by the reality revealed in the above chart.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Most Important Chart in Economics?

The Most Important Chart in Economics?

The Most Important Chart in Economics? - Peter Diekmeyer (25/03/2019)

Earlier this month, the U.S. Federal Reserve quietly released the Financial Accounts of the United States. Like most government data, the 198-page report (known to insiders as the Z1) is almost impossible to understand.

However, to the economists and accountants who wade their way through the mess, the implications are clear.

America has been growing government, business and household debts faster than its economy for more than four decades. Despite the huge runup in asset prices during that time, the country is essentially bankrupt.

The impending disaster becomes even clearer when presented visually. 

The above chart, compiled on the St-Louis Fed’s FRED site, strongly suggests that economists have been pushing a GDP expansion that has been fueled almost uniquely by debt.

The three stages of scam economics

The story of how the American government and the Federal Reserve—with the quiet backing of university academics—fueled this elaborate Ponzi scheme unfolded in three stages.

Tax and spend

The first signs emerged in the 1960s and early 1970s, when American companies, after an almost three-decade free ride, began to get competition in international markets from countries such as Japan and Germany, which had been bombed back to the stone ages during World War II.

By that time, the American public had gotten used to constantly-rising living standards. For politicians, asking voters to work harder or to curtail constant demands for “more” became increasingly more difficult. 

Governments responded with what became known as “tax and spend” economic policies.

Taxing the hard-earned savings of workers and passing the cash to bureaucrats to spend instantly created “sugar highs,” due to the short-term effects of dumping extra cash into the economy. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Federal Borrowing Crosses the Rubicon

Federal Borrowing Crosses the Rubicon

A year ago, Republicans in control of Congress suspended the cap on federal borrowing. The limit was automatically re-imposed on March 1st. Politicians now have a few months to hammer out legislation to raise the cap as the Treasury employs “extraordinary measures” to fend off default.

The federal deficit is mushrooming once again. The 2017 tax cuts have taken a bite out of receipts at the IRS and economic growth has not met expectations.

This year’s borrowing to fill the gap between government tax revenue and expenditures may reach a trillion dollars for the first time since 2012.

If Washington politicians follow the usual script, we can expect Republicans to posture as fiscal conservatives and then relent either just before or just after a federal shutdown.

Congressional Debt Ceiling

Democrats will chastise the GOP for playing politics with America’s sacred responsibility to pay its bills.

This drama has played out dozens of times over recent decades and is therefore likely to repeat once more this fall.

Perhaps it won’t, though. The Associated Press notes that there just aren’t many people in the Capitol who even pretend to care anymore when it comes to deficits.

The AP quoted former senator Judd Gregg from New Hampshire on Sunday: “The president doesn’t care. The leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t care.” He should also have included Republican leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have reliably supported metastasizing federal debt.

Meanwhile, the socialist Left has touted so-called “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT) as the mechanism to fund the economy-killing Green New Deal and any and all other government boondoggles. At its core, MMT advocates for perpetual money printing to fund government spending.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Tax Cuts Without Reducing Government Outlays Is Not Possible

TAX CUTS WITHOUT REDUCING GOVERNMENT OUTLAYS IS NOT POSSIBLE

According to many economic experts and commentators, an effective way to generate economic growth is through the lowering of taxes. The lowering of taxes, it is held, is going to place more money in consumer’s pockets thereby setting in motion an economic growth. This way of thinking is based on the popular view that a given dollar increase in consumer spending will lift the economy’s gross domestic product (GDP) by a multiple of the increase in consumer expenditure. An example will illustrate the magic of this multiplier.

Let us assume that on average individuals spend 90 cents and save 10 cents of each additional dollar they receive. If consumers raise their spending by $100 million this will boost retailers’ revenues by this amount. Retailers in turn will spend 90% of their new income, i.e. $90 million on various goods and services. The recipients of the $90 million will in turn spend 90% of $90 million i.e. $81 million and so on. At each stage in the spending chain, people spend 90% of the additional income they receive. This process eventually ends with the GDP rising by $1 billion i.e. (10*100million).

In short, all that is required is to give every individual more money to spend, and this in turn should set in motion increases in consumer expenditure, which in turn will trigger increases in the production of goods and services. Observe that within the framework of ‘the multiplier’ savings are actually bad news – since the more people save the smaller is the multiplier.

The magic of ‘the multiplier’ however, is just wishful thinking – a myth. Every activity in an economy has to be funded and therefore it is always in competition with other activities for scarce real savings.  Hence, within all other things being equal if more is spent on consumption goods, then less is left for capital goods. An increase in retailers activity will be offset by the decline in the activity of capital goods producers.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Administration on Track for $1 Trillion Budget Deficit This Year

Trump Administration on Track for $1 Trillion Budget Deficit This Year

The Trump administration is on track to post a 2019 fiscal year budget deficit of over $1 trillion. These are the kind of budget deficits we would expect to see during a deep recession, not an “economic boom.”

The government got off to a good start at achieving this illustrious achievement last month. According to the Treasury Department report, the deficit came in at $100.5 billion in October. That represents a 58 percent increase from the $63 billion deficit recorded in October 2017. Spending rose 18 percent year-on-year. Revenues only increased by 7 percent.The month-on-month increase was impacted by a quirk in the calendar. Total outlays were much higher this October compared to last year because Social Security payments for October 2017 went out in September due to Oct. 1 falling on the weekend. Nevertheless, we should have seen a decrease in this year’s September outlays compared to last year and that didn’t happen. The September 2018 deficit was significantly bigger (119.116) than September 2017 ($7.886 billion) even without the October Social Security payments falling in September this year. The bottom line is spending is going up year-over-year.

Spending last month continued the pace of the last fiscal year. The federal government ended 2018 with the largest budget deficit since 2012. Uncle Sam ended 2018 $779 billion in the red, adding to the ballooning national debt. The CBO forecast this year’s deficit will come in close to $1 trillion. The current Treasury Department estimate projects a total fiscal 2019 deficit over the $1 trillion mark, coming in at $1.085 trillion.

The national debt expanded by more than $1 trillion in fiscal 2018. It currently stands at over $21.7 trillion. According to data released by the Treasury Department, fiscal 2018 gave us the sixth-largest fiscal-year debt increase in the history of the United States. (If you’re wondering how the debt can grow by a larger number than the annual deficit, economist Mark Brandly explains here.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Economic Consequences Of Debt

The Economic Consequences Of Debt

Not surprisingly, my recent article on “The Important Role Of Recessions” led to more than just a bit of debate on why “this time is different.” The running theme in the debate was that debt really isn’t an issue as long as our neighbors are willing to support continued fiscal largesse.

As I have pointed out previously, the U.S. is currently running a nearly $1 Trillion dollar deficit during an economic expansion. This is completely contrary to the Keynesian economic theory.

Keynes contended that ‘a general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn resulting in losses of potential output due to unnecessarily high unemployment, which results from the defensive (or reactive) decisions of the producers.’  In other words, when there is a lack of demand from consumers due to high unemployment, the contraction in demand would force producers to take defensive actions to reduce output.

In such a situation, Keynesian economics states that government policies could be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity, and reducing unemployment and deflation.  

Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.”

Of course, with the government already running a massive deficit, and expected to issue another $1.5 Trillion in debt during the next fiscal year, the efficacy of “deficit spending” in terms of its impact to economic growth has been greatly marginalized.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why Bad Economics Makes Such Good Politics

Why Bad Economics Makes Such Good Politics

corrupt1.PNG

As the election nears, politicians will more and more frantically point out what wonderful favors they’ve done for the voters — or what favors they will do for the voters, if elected.

Of course, they never mean all the voters. They mean groups or individuals within the voting population who believe they benefit from laws, taxes, regulations, and spending programs supported by the politician in question.

Two such examples of these sorts of favors are tariffs and minimum wage laws. Both impose costs on both producers and consumers overall, while benefiting a small sliver of the population that is able to take advantage of the government mandate.

The economics of each of these, or taxation and business regulation in general, have already been addressed numerous times in these pages.

It must suffice to point out that these policies, for which politicians think they deserve accolades, potentially benefit only very specific interest groups. Nevertheless, these policies can prove to be politically popular, and may help a politician get elected.

But why should policies that help so few — and impose many costs on even those they purport to help — be politically popular?

Hazlitt and Mises on the Popularity of Bad Economics

Answering this question was one of the main reasons that Henry Hazlitt wrote his perennially popular bookEconomics in One Lesson.

In the very first chapter, Hazlitt notes that economic science is prone to so many errors because people are motivated to believe an incorrect version of economics that supports their own economic interests. Or as Hazlitt put it, economic errors “are multiplied a thousandfold … by the special pleading of selfish interests.”

Sometimes, these attempts to throw good economics in the garbage are spectacularly successful. After all, for decades, no insignificant number of Americans believed the claim that “what’s good for General Motors is good for America.”1

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Disaster Awaits: National Debt Will Be 6 Times The Size Of The Economy

Disaster Awaits: National Debt Will Be 6 Times The Size Of The Economy

Even without changes to the current spending policy, the government’s spending is on an unsustainable path. By the time a child born in 2018 reaches retirement age, the United States national debt will be six times the size of the economy according to an analysis released this week.

Without making any changes to current policy (in other words, even without the glut of new entitlement spending proposed by some of Bernie Sanders’ acolytes) that’s the trajectory for the national debt over the rest of the 21st century, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), as reported by Reason. It’s an outlook that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), in an analysis released this week, calls “frightening and almost certainly unsustainable.”

Under current law—which assumes, among other things, that last year’s tax cuts will expire in 2025 and not be extended—the national debt will double from 78 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year to 160 percent of GDP by 2050. It would hit 360 percent of GDP, and still be climbing, by the end of the CBO’s 75-year projection window in 2093. In the so-called “alternative fiscal scenario,” which assumes current policies (such those tax cuts) are kept in place, the debt would hit 225 percent of GDP by 2050 and more than 600 percent of GDP by 2093. -Reason

The CBO’s 75-year budget forecast (its longest of long-term projections) makes it clear that the current budgetary course must change dramatically.  The United States simply cannot afford the size of government it has now, let alone the size of government demanded by socialists.  The spending must be cut, there’s no other way around it.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Getting Serious About Debts and Deficits

Getting Serious About Debts and Deficits

Photo Source CafeCredit.com | CC BY 2.0

With the possibility that the Democrats will retake Congress and press demands for increased spending in areas like health care, education, and child care, the deficit hawks (DH) are getting prepared to awaken from their dormant state. We can expect major news outlets to be filled with stories on how the United States is on its way to becoming the next Greece or Zimbabwe. For this reason, it is worth taking a few moments to reorient ourselves on the topic.

First, we need some basic context. The DH will inevitably point to the fact that deficits are at historically high levels for an economy that is near full employment. They will also point to a rapidly rising debt-to-GDP ratio. Both complaints are correct, the question is whether there is a reason for anyone to care.

Just to remind everyone, the classic story of deficits being bad is that they crowd out investment and net exports, which makes us poorer in the future than we would otherwise be. The reason is that less investment means less productivity growth, which means that people will have lower income five or ten years in the future than if we had smaller budget deficits. Lower net exports mean that foreigners are accumulating US assets, which will give them a claim on our future income.

Debt is bad because it means a larger portion of future income will go to people who own the debt. This means that the government has to use up a larger share of the money it raises in taxes to pay interest on the debt rather than for services like health care and education. Or, to put it in a more Keynesian context, there will be more demand coming from people who own the debt, which means the government would need higher taxesnto support the same level of spending than would otherwise be the case.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fixing Infrastructure Isn’t as Simple as Spending Another Trillion Dollars

Fixing Infrastructure Isn’t as Simple as Spending Another Trillion Dollars

It isn’t easy to add new subway lines or new highways, and so “solutions” don’t really exist.

If there’s one thing Americans can still agree on, it’s that America needs to spend more on infrastructure which is visibly falling apart in many places. This capital investment creates jobs and satisfies everyone’s ideological requirements: investment in public infrastructure helps enterprises, local governments and residents.

Unfortunately, it isn’t a simple as spending another trillion dollars. Spending money is the easy part; actually fixing what’s broken isn’t just a matter of spending more money.

The poster child for spending trillions on infrastructure and getting very little value is Japan, which has funneled much of its fiscal stimulus over the past 30 years into vast and largely needless infrastructure projects: bridges and roadways that are lightly used being just one example.

The reason for the this low-value-creation policy is the political power of the construction industry and the convoluted political structure which gives rural areas inordinate political power over public spending. As a result, enormously expensive and utterly needless highways and bridges litter lightly populated rural communities which have become dependent on construction jobs for what little remains of the local economy.

In other words, what’s broken in Japan remains broken. Spending more on infrastructure hasn’t fixed what’s dragging the nation into permanent stagnation.

If you live in any of America’s major urban centers (or happen to visit), you know that traffic congestion is now off the scale. From Portland to Las Vegas to Atlanta, traffic jams and crushing commutes are now the norm.

Soaring housing costs have pushed workers farther into the exurbs, lengthening commutes and choking highways constructed for a much smaller populace.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Debt Doesn’t Matter, Because “We Owe It to Ourselves”? Why Krugman and Keynes Are Wrong about This

Debt Doesn’t Matter, Because “We Owe It to Ourselves”? Why Krugman and Keynes Are Wrong about This

It is an undeniable fact that debt, whether private or public, must, eventually, be repaid.

Creditors have better memories than debtors. This elegant line was coined by Benjamin Franklin—political philosopher, prolific writer, humorist and American ambassador to France. Mr. Franklin also was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A true polymath and a man of great common sense.

An entrepreneur assumes he is entitled to an inexhaustible supply of credit and nonchalantly racks up debt. Soon, he will discover that creditors have better memories than debtors. Credit will dry up. Workers will stop working. Suppliers will stop supplying. Debt, after all, needs to be paid back. Credit and debt are two sides of the same coin.

They will insist there is something subtle about debt we don’t understand.

The creditor is always a virtual partner of the debtor. He has linked his fate with that of the debtor. Every grant of credit is a speculative entrepreneurial venture, the success or failure of which is uncertain.” – Ludwig von Mises in Human Action (Chapter 20 – p539)

Mainstream economists will not deny this. After all, how could they? Yet, they will say we got it wrong. They will argue we don’t get the full picture. They will insist there is something subtle about debt we don’t understand.

We Owe it to Ourselves

The subtlety we fail to see—according to the mainstream—is that public debt and private debt are two different animals. When government owes money to other organizations or individuals, a different rule applies than when a private person or a private enterprise owes money. That rule is: we owe it to ourselves.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Italy’s Countdown to Fiscal Crisis

Italy’s Countdown to Fiscal Crisis

Italy’s current scheme of piling unfunded government spending on top of an already-huge debt is a recipe for disaster.

As a general rule, we worry too much about deficits and debt. Yes, red ink matters, but we should pay more attention to variables such as the overall burden of government spending and the structure of the tax system.

That being said, Greece shows that a nation can experience a crisis if investors no longer trust that a government is capable of “servicing” its debt (i.e., paying interest and principal to people and institutions that hold government bonds).

This doesn’t change the fact that Greece’s main fiscal problem is too much spending. It simply shows that it’s also important to recognize the side-effects of too much spending (if you have a brain tumor, that’s your main problem, even if crippling headaches are a side-effect of the tumor).

Anyhow, it’s quite likely that Italy will be the next nation to travel down this path.

This is in part because the Italian economy is moribund, as noted by the Wall Street Journal.

Italy’s national elections…featured populist promises of largess but neglected what economists have long said is the real Italian disease: The country has forgotten how to grow. …The Italian economy contracted deeply in Europe’s debt crisis earlier this decade. A belated recovery now under way yielded 1.5% growth in 2017—a full percentage point less than the eurozone as a whole and not enough to dispel Italians’ pervasive sense of national decline. Many European policy makers view Italy’s stasis as the likeliest cause of a future eurozone crisis.”

Why would Italy be the cause of a future crisis?

For the simple reason that it is only the 4th-largest economy in Europe, but this chart from the Financial Times shows it has the most nominal debt.

So what’s the solution?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Whatever Happened to Saving for a Rainy Day?

The National Debt Clock is a very very large digital display of the current gross national debt of the United StatesMichael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Whatever Happened to Saving for a Rainy Day?

The US will be paying for its current fiscal excesses with the promise of future payments. But inefficient economic stimulus now will not give future generations the productive resources needed to make good on it.

CAMBRIDGE – More than a decade ago, I undertook a study, together with Graciela Kaminsky of George Washington University and Carlos Végh, now the World Bank’s chief economist for Latin America and the Caribbean, examining more than 100 countries’ fiscal policies for much of the postwar era. We concluded that advanced economies’ fiscal policies tended to be either independent of the business cycle (acyclical) or to lean in the opposite direction (countercyclical). Built-in stabilizers, like unemployment insurance, are part of the story, but government outlays also worked to smooth the economic cycle.

The benefit of countercyclical policies is that government debt as a share of GDP falls during good times. That provides fiscal space when recessions materialize, without jeopardizing long-run debt sustainability.

By contrast, in most emerging-market economies, fiscal policy was procyclical: government spending increased when the economy was approaching full employment. This tendency leaves countries poorly positioned to inject stimulus when bad times come again. In fact, it sets the stage for dreaded austerity measures that make bad times worse.

Following its admission to the eurozone, Greece convincingly demonstrated that an advanced economy can be just as procyclical as any emerging market. During a decade of prosperity, with output close to potential most of the time, government spending outpaced growth, and government debt ballooned. Perhaps policymakers presumed that saving for a rainy day is unnecessary if this time is different and perpetual sunshine is the new normal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Rising Economic Head Winds

Rising Economic Head Winds

Remember the “tea party” revolt in 2009–2010 against government bailouts and government spending?

Remember the “fiscal cliff” drama of Dec. 31, 2012, when Congress raised taxes and cut spending to avoid a debt default and government shutdown?

Remember the actual government shutdown in October 2013 as Republicans held the line against more government spending?

Well, congratulations if you do, because everyone else seems to have forgotten.

The days of caring about debt and deficits are over. In just the past two months, Republicans passed the Trump tax cuts that will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion on a conservative estimate, and probably much more.

Then Republicans and Democrats “compromised” on eliminating caps on defense spending and domestic spending by agreeing to more of both. That repeal of the so-called “sequester” will add over $300 billion to the deficit over the next two years.

Then there’s a tsunami of student loan debts in default that the Treasury has guaranteed and will have to pay off. Finally, the higher interest rates from this debt will add $210 billion to the annual deficit for every 1% increase in average federal debt funding costs.

Today we are looking at $1 trillion-plus deficits as far as the eye can see.

That’s extraordinary enough. What is more extraordinary is that no one cares! Democrats, Republicans, the White House and everyday Americans are all united in totally ignoring the fact that America is going broke.

This euphoric mood in response to more spending won’t last. The growth is not there to pay for the tax cuts, and the economy is not even growing fast enough to keep up with the growth in the debt.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When America’s Fiscal Crisis Hits, Be Forewarned that Tax Increases Will Make a Bad Situation Worse

When America’s Fiscal Crisis Hits, Be Forewarned that Tax Increases Will Make a Bad Situation Worse

When America’s fiscal crisis hits, remember that raising taxes will only exacerbate the problem.

At some point in the next 10 years, there will be a huge fight in the United States over fiscal policy. This battle is inevitable because politicians are violating the Golden Rule of fiscal policy by allowing government spending to grow faster than the private sector (exacerbated by the recent budget deal), leading to ever-larger budget deficits.

I’m more sanguine about red ink than most people. After all, deficits and debt are merely symptoms. The real problem is excessive government spending.

But when peacetime, non-recessionary deficits climb above $1 trillion, the political pressure to adopt some sort of “austerity” package will become enormous. What’s critical to understand, however, is that not all forms of austerity are created equal.

The crowd in Washington reflexively will assert that higher taxes are necessary and desirable. People like me will respond by explaining that the real problem is entitlements and that we need structural reform of programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Moreover, I will point out that higher taxes most likely will simply trigger and enable additional spending. And I will warn that tax increases will undermine economic performance.

Regarding that last point, three professors, led by Alberto Alesina at Harvard, have unveiled some new research looking at the economic impact of expenditure-based austerity compared to tax-based austerity.

…we started from detailed information on the consolidations implemented by 16 OECD countries between 1978 and 2014. …we group measures in just two broad categories: spending, g, and taxes, t. …We distinguish fiscal plans between those that are expenditure based (EB) and those that are tax based (TB)… Measuring the macroeconomic impact of a plan requires modelling the relationship between plans and macroeconomic variables.

Here are their econometric results.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase