Photo: via PIMCO
Solutions from policymakers on the right or left, however, seem focused almost exclusively on rectifying or reducing our budget deficit as a panacea. While Democrats favour tax increases and mild adjustments to entitlements, Republicans pound the table for trillions of dollars of spending cuts and an axing of Obamacare. Both, however, somewhat mystifyingly, believe that balancing the budget will magically produce 20 million jobs over the next 10 years. President Obama’s long-term budget makes just such a claim and Republican alternatives go many steps further. Former Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota might be the Republicans’ extreme example, but his claim of 5% real growth based on tax cuts and entitlement reductions comes out of left field or perhaps the field of dreams. The United States has not had a sustained period of 5% real growth for nearly 60 years.
Both parties, in fact, are moving to anti-Keynesian policy orientations, which deny additional stimulus and make rather awkward and unsubstantiated claims that if you balance the budget, “they will come.” It is envisioned that corporations or investors will somehow overnight be attracted to the revived competitiveness of the U.S. labour market: Politicians feel that fiscal conservatism equates to job growth. It’s difficult to believe, however, that an American-based corporation, with profits as its primary focus, can somehow be wooed back to American soil with a feeble and historically unjustified assurance that Social Security will be now secure or that medical care inflation will disinflate. Admittedly, those are long-term requirements for a stable and healthy economy, but fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. The move towards it, in fact, if implemented too quickly, could stultify economic growth. Fed Chairman Bernanke has said as much, suggesting the urgency of a congressional medium-term plan to reduce the deficit but that immediate cuts are self-defeating if they were to undercut the still-fragile economy.
If you assume that Bill Gross is always talking his book — something you can assume about any investor any time — perhaps he’s realising that his bearish bond thesis doesn’t work in an environment of slow-growth austerity and lower bond issuance.
Also: The facts simply back him up, as the current quagmire in the UK confirms.
Since Bill Gross’ warnings about US debt have gotten so much play in the media (as evidence that we should cut spending) we’re sure that his latest message — too aggressive spending will be self-defeating — will get just as much play. Not.
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