Things Will Get Worse Before They’ll Get Better
House leaders have agreed on a compromise continuing spending resolution at the same level as before from October 2012 through March 2013. It’s likely now that the President(s?) will probably try to make the money available for deficit spending, as of today, last through the time period of the continuing resolution so that one deal including both the budget and raising the debt limit can be made by March of 2013. According to the August 2, Daily Treasury Statement, there’s $528,508,000,000 of deficit spending left until the debt ceiling is reached. In addition, there’s an additional 58,993,000,000 available in reserves, for a grand total of $584,501,000,000 available until the debt ceiling is reached. That’s an average of $73,062,625,000 deficit spending per month for the next 8 months, ending March 31, 2013.
For the past 10 months, average deficit spending was at $114,802,300,000 Billion per month, and that amount was not enough stimulus for a full recovery. So, the likely 36% reduction in average deficit spending over the next 8 months is unlikely to be any more effective in pulling us out of the extended employment recession we are experiencing, than the deficits in the preceding 10 months were. On the contrary, deficit spending over the next 8 months is unlikely even to allow us to maintain the unemployment levels we have now, provided private sector net spending doesn’t increase to compensate for less Government spending. What would have to happen for private sector spending to increase?
That’s an easy one to answer. The government deficit for the past 12 months, in rough terms, has been about 8% of GDP. The planned spending would be about 5.5% of expected GDP. If the Government sticks to its deficit spending targets, then the private sector will have to save less and import less, to avoid demand leakage which would place greater fiscal drag on the economy. If imports come in at 3% of GDP, then private sector savings will have to decrease to 2.5% or less of GDP if the economy is to expand faster than it is now, and to create lower unemployment.
This conclusion isn’t set in stone because there are distributional effects to consider, but it’s also true that private sector attempts to continue to save say 6% of GDP and to import 4% of GDP will cause slower GDP growth, higher unemployment, and more rapid government spending than planned in the shorter run, bringing on the debt ceiling problem sooner than expected, and, in the absence of Congressional, or Executive, action allowing more deficit spending, forcing the Government into surplus, and the economy into even more rapid decline prior to March 31, 2013 due to fiscal drag.
In short, the recent jobs report notwithstanding, looking at the economy from the viewpoint of the sectoral financial balances model, and taking into account the likely spending plans for the next 8 months, the economy looks bleak even if we assume that the Eurozone will hang in there, and avoid a financial crash, forcing us to face, once again, the question of whether the big banks should be bailed out again, or whether this time, they should just be taken into resolution and the TBTF ended.
I don’t believe it makes much difference to this prediction of how the economy will go whether President Obama or Romney is elected, as long is there isn’t a big change in the Congress, or a big change in the stated views and behavior of whichever candidate is elected; both of which are very unlikely as far as we can see at this point. It’s as if we have entered the 1930s with only different versions of Herbert Hoover, without half the integrity and good will old Herbert had, to lead us.
We are nearly four years into the crash now, and real unemployment rates are approaching depression levels. Working Americans could well lose a decade, as Paul Krugman has been warning, before this is over. And if Americans don’t rouse themselves to either take over or destroy both these sorry excuses for political parties over the next four years or so, we could be looking at a longer period of blight than that.
(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com.