Re: Goldman on the fiscal package

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(email exchange)

>   On Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 5:46 PM, Michael wrote:
>   Bullet points from the GS report, what do you think of their assessment?

Pretty good up to a point.

Agree the deficit probably should be larger to restore full employment.

It goes bad where highlighted below:

>   The US economy urgently needs a large dose of fiscal stimulus to counter a sharp
>   retrenchment in private-sector spending. Consumers are cutting back in a way not
>   seen since World War II, and businesses are following suit. Based on current equity
>   prices, current credit spreads, and the trend in home prices, we expect the
>   private-sector balance between income and spending to rise from 1% of GDP in
>   mid-2008 to about 10% by the end of 2009, an annualized increase of 6% of GDP.
>   To fill this hole in demand, the federal government should become the spender of
>   last resort, as monetary easing cannot do the job alone. We reckon that the
>   appropriate level of stimulus is $600 billion (bn) at an annual rate, or 4% of GDP,

Could be. Maybe more.

>   with the remaining 2% filled by a narrowing in the current account deficit.

Increased domestic demand and higher crude prices could increase the trade gap, which would be highly beneficial, reduce demand, and therefore allow us to run deficits that much higher.

>   Moreover, with prospects for cyclical recovery in the private sector looking dim,
>   this stimulus should stay in place through 2010 and be withdrawn only gradually
>   thereafter. The bill recently introduced in Congress, priced at $825bn over two
>   years, is a major step in the right direction but is apt to prove insufficient if our
>   estimates are correct. On the five-year view customarily used to score such
>   programs, we could justify stimulus totaling $2 trillion.


>   While stimulus will boost the federal deficit, it is important to recognize that the
>   deficit will rise sharply even if nothing is done. Our projection of the private-sector
>   balance implies a deficit of about $1 trillion in 2009, a figure that looks roughly
>   consistent with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline—$1.2 trillion for
>   fiscal 2009—when adjusted for differences in economic outlook, accounting, and
>   timing. Moreover, since the deficit must ultimately be financed either by private
>   domestic saving or net foreign inflows, the net budget cost of stimulus can be
>   reduced if the package avoids measures that mainly boost saving.

There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with measures that increase savings and therefore require higher deficits. He’s afraid of deficits per se.

>   Likewise, much of the prospective surge in federal debt that terrifies many market
>   participants is already baked in the recessionary cake. While stimulus will aggravate
>   this increase, the United States starts from a fairly comfortable federal debt ratio
>   of just over 40% of GDP at the end of fiscal 2008, lower than the G7 average. And
>   those who worry about a lack of demand for all this debt should not overlook US
>    households and businesses as potential customers.

Lack of demand is never an issue.

>   After all, it is their efforts to repair balance sheets that has caused the need for
>   stimulus; with risk aversion running high, it stands to reason that they will shoot
>   a few bucks the government’s way to help it do their spending for them.
>   However, the long-term budget imbalance remains serious.

Not applicable.

>   Thus, any program must feature measures that not only have quick and powerful
>   effects but also expire as soon as the need for stimulus has passed. To balance
>   these competing objectives, the package should focus on infrastructure and
>   investment but also include carefully targeted tax cuts, enhancements of benefit
>   programs, and aid to state and local governments as a bridge to these projects,
>   many of which take time to develop.


>   Assuming that the final package is in the range now under consideration, we
>   estimate that the federal deficit will reach $1.425 trillion in FY 2009, or 10% of
>   GDP (based on CBO’s accounting for TARP and GSEs). While the scale of the
>   package driving this change has risen sharply in recent months, so has the rate
>   at which the economy is losing momentum. Accordingly, we have not changed
>   our economic outlook, though of course this remains subject to review.