Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th September 2011
I realize it’s not a perfect analogy,
but, due to poor communications,
the battle of New Orleans was fought
well after the War of 1812 had ended.
Likewise, the Congressional super committee is fighting the battle for deficit reduction
long after the vaporization of the primary reason driving that move towards deficit.
The main difference is the stakes are much higher this time,
with the real cost of the lost output from the excessive, ongoing,
global output gap far exceeding
all the real losses of all the wars in history combined.
The headline reason for deficit reduction was
the rhetoric about the immediate danger of the US
suddenly becoming the next Greece,
with the US govt being cut off from credit,
interest rates spiking,
and visions of the US Treasury Secretary
on his knees, hat in hand,
begging the IMF for funding and mercy.
And the looming flash point was the threat of a US downgrade if
a credible deficit reduction package wasn’t passed before the Aug 2 deadline,
when the Congressionally self-imposed US borrowing authority was to expire.
After a prolonged Congressional process that was
even uglier than the healthcare process,
with already dismal Congression approval ratings moving even lower,
the debt ceiling was extended with a measure that contained some deficit reduction,
and also set up the current super committee to ensure further deficit reduction.
Soon after, however, Standard and Poor’s decided it all wasn’t enough,
and the dreaded downgrade was announced.
And then the unexpected happened.
Rather than spike up as widely feared,
market forces drove US Treasury interest rates down, substantially.
What was happening? Where had the mainstream gone wrong?
Former Fed Chairman Greenspan and celebrity investor Warren Buffet
both immediately had the answer.
S&P was wrong.
The US is not Greece.
The US govt prints its own money, while Greece does not.
The US always has the ability to pay any amount of dollars,
that markets can’t take away.
And everyone agreed.
And the driving force behind deficit reduction was suddenly not there,
and the rhetoric of becoming the next Greece vanished from the national TV screens.
And, unfortunately, just like the news that the War of 1812 had ended
didn’t get to New Orleans in time to prevent thousands from
losing their lives in that bloody battle that would otherwise not have been fought,
the news that the US isn’t Greece apparently hasn’t gotten through
to the Congressional members of the super committee
now fighting the current battle over deficit reduction.
What was learned after the downgrade was that
there is no such thing as a solvency problem for the US govt.
Short term or long term.
True, excessive deficit spending may indeed someday cause unwelcome inflation,
but the US government is never in any danger of not being able
to make any payment (in dollars) that it wants to.
And yes, the discussion could be shifted to a discussion
as to whether current long term deficits forecasts
translate into unwelcome inflation in the future
that may demand action today.
However no specific research has been done along those lines.
And, in fact, inflation forecasts,
which all assume our current fiscal trajectory,
don’t show any signs of an inflation problem.
Nor are the long term US Treasury inflation indexed bonds flashing any inflation warnings.
In fact, the Fed and most other forecasters remain more concerned over the risk of deflation.
And Japan, with a debt to GDP ratio about triple that of the US,
has been fighting its battle against deflation for nearly two decades.
So, clearly, shooting from the hip on this issue,
by suddenly declaring long term deficits
must be immediately addressed
with cuts to Social Security,
and with tax hikes,
to prevent a looming inflation problem,
(now that the prior errant reason, that the US could be the next Greece, has been dismissed)
could only be considered
highly irresponsible behavior
on the part of the super committee.
An informed Congress might recognize
the reason for the urgent action to reduce the federal deficit
and the reason for the super committee
is no longer there.
And, therefore, in informed Congress might suspend the super committee,
and regroup and reconsider before taking action.
It is widely agreed the current problem is a massive lack of aggregate demand.
It is widely agreed that a combination of tax cuts and/or spending increases
will restore sales, output and employment.
But instead of a compromise where the Republicans get some of their tax cuts
and the Democrats some of their spending increases, and the economy booms,
both sides are instead going the other way and pushing proposals to reduce aggregate demand,
even though they no longer have good reason to do so.
The battle of New Orleans was fought after the reason for fighting it had ended,
And, likewise, long after the reason for deficit reduction vaporized,
this battle continues to be fought
with both parties continuing acting counter agenda.
(feel free to distribute)