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Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 3

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 3

Uploaded by on Feb 15, 2011

Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks at Moving Forward on Entitlements: Practical Steps to Reform, NTUF’s entitlement reform event at CPAC, on Feb. 11, 2011.

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People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Harmful Effects of Deficit Spending

Federal deficit spending has exploded. Even with the recent passage of the Budget Control Act, the deficit is still expected to be about $1 trillion next year. The damage caused by this spending includes:

1. Transferring resources from higher-valued private activities to lower-valued government activities. With government spending already at 41 percent of GDP, new spending will likely have a negative return, which will reduce output.
2. Creating pressure to increase taxes in the future, which would reduce growth. Higher taxes impose “deadweight losses” on the economy of at least $1 for every $2 of added revenues, as discussed below.
3. Increasing federal debt, which creates economic uncertainty and a higher risk of financial crises, as Europe’s woes illustrate. Research indicates that economic growth tends to fall as debt rises above about 90 percent of GDP, as discussed below.

Economists in the Keynesian tradition dispute the first point. They believe that the demand-side “stimulus” benefits of spending are so important that they outweigh the problems of microeconomic distortions and misallocations caused by federal programs. However, it is very difficult to see any economic boost from the huge deficit spending of recent years.

The total Keynesian stimulus in recent years includes not only the 2009 stimulus package of more than $800 billion, but the total amount of federal deficit spending. We’ve had deficit spending of $459 billion in fiscal 2008, $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009, $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2010, and $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2011. Despite that huge supposed stimulus, U.S. unemployment remains at high levels and the current recovery has been the slowest since World War II.5

The Obama administration claimed that there are large “multiplier” benefits of federal spending, but the recent spending spree seems to have mainly just suppressed private-sector activities.6 Stanford University’s John Taylor took a detailed look at GDP data over recent years, and he found little evidence of any benefits from the 2009 stimulus bill.7 Any “sugar high” to the economy from spending increases was apparently small and short-lived. Harvard University’s Robert Barro estimates that any small multiplier benefits that the stimulus bill may have had is greatly outweighed by the future damage caused by higher taxes and debt.8

John Taylor recently testified that deficit-spending stimulus actions “have not only been ineffective, they have lowered investment and consumption demand by increasing concerns about the federal debt, another financial crisis, threats of inflation or deflation, higher taxes, or simply more interventions. Most businesses have plenty of cash to invest and create jobs. They’re sitting on it because of these concerns.”9

As federal debt grows larger, the problems caused by fiscal uncertainty will get magnified. The CBO notes that “growing federal debt also would increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates. Such a crisis would . . . probably have a very significant negative impact on the country.”10

Research by economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart found that government debt burdens above 90 percent of GDP are associated with lower economic growth.11 After examining data on dozens of countries, they concluded that “high debt is associated with slower growth; a relationship which is robust across advanced and emerging markets.”12 High debt can also be associated with inflation crises, “financial repression,” and other problems. Furthermore, high public and private debt acts as a “contagion amplifier” in the globalized economy.

A new paper by economists at the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) similarly found that when government debt in OECD countries rises above a threshold of about 85 percent of GDP, economic growth is slower.13 As debt rises, borrowers become increasingly sensitive to changes in interest rates and other shocks. “Higher nominal debt raises real volatility, increases financial fragility, and reduces average growth,” the authors note.14

The BIS economists conclude that countries should build a “fiscal buffer” by keeping its debt well below the danger threshold. They note that without major reforms, debt-to-GDP levels will soar in coming decades in most advanced economies due to population aging. Thus, one more reason for the United States to cut its spending and debt is to help it weather future financial crises spilling over from countries that are in even worse shape than we are.

 
5 See Joint Economic Committee, “Uncharted Depths: Welcome to Barack Obama’s ‘Recover Bummer,'” Republican Staff, June 23, 2011. And see the comments of economists Robert Gordon and Robert Hall at http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/biggest-keynesian-stimulus-slowest-recovery.
6 See Robert J. Barro, “Government Spending Is No Free Lunch,” Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2009; John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor, “The Obama Stimulus Impact? Zero,” Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2010; John H. Cochrane, “Fiscal Stimulus, Fiscal Inflation, or Fiscal Fallacies,” University of Chicago Booth School of Business, February 27, 2009.
7 John Taylor, Testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight, and Government Spending, February 16, 2011.
8 Robert J. Barro, “The Stimulus Evidence One Year Later,” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2010.
9 John Taylor, Testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth, September 13, 2011.
10 Congressional Budget Office, “Long-Term Budget Outlook,” June 2011, p. 22.
11 The authors summarize their findings in Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, “A Decade of Debt,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 16827, February 2011.
12 Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, “A Decade of Debt,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 16827, February 2011, p. 5.
13 Stephen Cecchetti, M.S. Mohanty, and Fabrizio Zampolli, “The Real Effects of Debt,” Bureau for International Settlements, September 2011.
14 Stephen Cecchetti, M.S. Mohanty, and Fabrizio Zampolli, “The Real Effects of Debt,” Bureau for International Settlements, September 2011, p. 4.

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 2

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 2

But we also know that it is difficult to convince politicians to do what’s right for the nation. And if they don’t change the course of fiscal policy, and we leave the federal government on autopilot, then America is doomed to become another Greece.

The combination of poorly designed entitlement programs (mostly Medicare and Medicaid) and an aging population will lead to America’s fiscal collapse.

__________________________

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

America Has a High-Spending and High-Debt Government

Some analysts say that America can afford to increase taxes and spending because it is a uniquely small-government country. Alas, that is no longer the case. Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that federal, state, and local government spending in the United States this year is a huge 41 percent of GDP.

Figure 2 shows that government in the United States used to be about 10 percentage points of GDP smaller than the average government in the OECD. But that size advantage has fallen to just 4 percentage points. A few high-income nations — such as Australia — now have smaller governments and much lower government debt than the United States.

 

Historically, America’s strong growth and high living standards were built on our relatively smaller government. The ongoing surge in federal spending is undoing this competitive advantage we had enjoyed in the world economy. CBO projections show that without reforms federal spending will rise by about 10 percentage points of GDP by 2035. If that happens, spending by American governments will be more than half of GDP by that year. That would doom young people to unbearable levels of taxation and a stagnant economy with fewer opportunities.

American government debt has also soared to abnormally high levels. Figure 3 shows OECD data for gross government debt as a share of GDP.3 (The data include debt for federal, state, and local governments). In 2011, gross government debt is 101 percent of GDP in the United States, substantially above the OECD average of 78 percent.4

3 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Economic Outlook Database,” September 2011, Annex Table 32.
4 This is a simple average of OECD countries. The OECD publishes a weighted average, but that figure is, of course, heavily influenced by the United States.

 

Cato Institute:Spending is our problem Part 1

Uploaded by on Feb 15, 2011

Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, speaks at Moving Forward on Entitlements: Practical Steps to Reform, NTUF’s entitlement reform event at CPAC, on Feb. 11, 2011.

People think that we need to raise more revenue but I say we need to cut spending. Take a look at a portion of this article from the Cato Institute:

The Damaging Rise in Federal Spending and Debt

by Chris Edwards

Joint Economic Committee
United States Congress

Joint Economic CommitteeUnited States Congress

Added to cato.org on September 20, 2011

This testimony was delivered on September 20, 2011.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. My comments will examine the likely damage to the economy if federal spending and debt keep spiraling upward.

Rising Spending and Debt

Federal spending and debt have soared over the past decade. As a share of gross domestic product, spending grew from 18 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2011, while debt held by the public jumped from 33 percent to 67 percent. The causes of this expansion include the costs of wars, growing entitlement programs, rising spending on discretionary programs, and the 2009 economic stimulus bill.

Projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that without reforms spending and debt will keep on rising for decades to come.1 Under the CBO’s “alternative fiscal scenario,” spending will grow to about 34 percent of GDP by 2035, as shown in Figure 1, and debt held by the public will increase to at least 187 percent of GDP.2

 

Hopefully, we will never reach anywhere near those levels of spending and debt. Going down that path would surely trigger major financial crises, as the ongoing debt problems in Europe illustrate. It is also very unlikely that Americans would support such a huge expansion of the government. The results of the 2010 elections suggest that the public has already started to revolt against excessive federal spending and debt.

Some policymakers are calling for a “balanced” package of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce federal deficits. But CBO projections show that the long-term debt problem is not a balanced one — it is caused by historic increases in spending, not shortages of revenues. Revenues have fallen in recent years due to the poor economy, but when growth returns, revenues are expected to rise to the normal level of about 18 percent of GDP — even with all current tax cuts in place. It is spending that is expected to far exceed normal levels in the future, and thus spending is behind the huge increases in debt that are projected.

1 Congressional Budget Office, “Long-Term Budget Outlook,” June 2011.
2 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “Economic Outlook Database,” September 2011, Annex Table 25, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/51/2483816.xls.