Budget Debt
The US Government spends more than it takes in just about every year. Here are the budget deficit numbers by year since 1932. If anyone wants to know why we have a budget problem in this country, all you have to do is look at the running debt clock. We are now at $21T in debt.! But, if big numbers alone don't get your attention, then lets put the $21T in perspective, it represents over 100% of GDP. The nation owed $10.6 trillion on Jan. 20, 2009, when President Obama was sworn in, and he doubled it – more than Bush piled up in two terms. There is bipartisan agreement that we cannot sustain this level of debt. There is also bipartisan agreement that we must correct the outflows exceeding inflows that drives the debt higher every second (see debt clock) . Everyone who manages a checkbook has seen this problem before and knows how to correct it - reduce expenses and increase income. Increasing revenues is critical to the solution, but will not have an immediate impact. Reducing expenses is also critical to the solution and can generate immediate impact. It is the only thing in your control instantly! Sequestration and government shutdown revealed that with immediate impacts in 2012 & 2013. Everything else we here about this subject beyond these two facts is just noise and should be ignored. The political left and right cannot agree on how to correct this problem. The left solution to our problem is to increase taxes on the rich to increase income. Currently the top 20% of income earners pays 80% of the federal tax burden. So do we want them to pay 100%? 110%? 120%? Maybe just write the check every year for the entire cost of government, whatever it is? Clearly this is not a solution. The right wants us to reduce spending and taxes, which was also a poor solution in a recessionary economy, but in a growing economy in 2017 has promise. But, the truth is we must do both (reduce expenses and increase income), we must do it now and it will not be easy. All the political hot air outside these two facts is simply a distraction from the difficult but obvious answer. Trump's tax law in Dec 2017 had an economic stimulation effect. A growing economy will usually increase income (tax revenues for the government) over the 10 years, but not immediately. The Trump tax reform due to money overseas that will be returning home, will have immediate positive revenue impacts. His military defense spending will have a negative national debt impact. To immediately begin to impact our budget deficit and debt problem whiling anticipating increased revenues we also must immediately and dramatically cut spending. That MUST include discretionary spending AND entitlements (Social Security, Medicare & Obamacare) which represent 90% of the problem. The left will say you are hurting education, the homeless, healthcare of all Americans, the elderly and on and on. The right will shout "we are already taxed enough". All This whining MUST be ignored. No one wants to hurt themselves, their families or their neighbors We have no choice but to intelligently make these difficult decisions while minimizing the pain. But there will be pain. And our representatives MUST ACT NOW. It is a dereliction of duty if they do not. The 2 year budget passed Feb 2018 does not do this. It was a purely bi-partisan negotiation (which is good) but gives everything to everyone and makes no tough decisions on spending. Below you can watch the ongoing debate on this critical issue. And hopefully see the solution we need develop.

Prelude to Crisis

12/23/19
from Maudlin Economics,
12/20/19:

Ignoring problems rarely solves them. You need to deal with them—not just the effects, but the underlying causes, or else they usually get worse. The older you get, the more you know that is true in almost every area of life. In the developed world and especially the US, and even in China, our economic challenges are rapidly approaching that point. Things that would have been easily fixed a decade ago, or even five years ago, will soon be unsolvable by conventional means.

Central bankers are politicians, ... and in some ways far more powerful and dangerous than the elected ones. There is almost no willingness to face our top problems

One was this passage which succinctly captures my feelings about the Fed. (Context: This was part of my response to Ray Dalio’s comments on Modern Monetary Theory.) Beginning with Greenspan, we have now had 30+ years of ever-looser monetary policy accompanied by lower rates. This created a series of asset bubbles whose demises wreaked economic havoc. Artificially low rates created the housing bubble, exacerbated by regulatory failure and reinforced by a morally bankrupt financial system. And with the system completely aflame, we asked the arsonist to put out the fire, with very few observers acknowledging the irony. Yes, we did indeed need the Federal Reserve to provide liquidity during the initial crisis. But after that, the Fed kept rates too low for too long, reinforcing the wealth and income disparities and creating new bubbles we will have to deal with in the not-too-distant future. This wasn’t a “beautiful deleveraging” as you call it. It was the ugly creation of bubbles and misallocation of capital. The Fed shouldn’t have blown these bubbles in the first place. The simple conceit that 12 men and women sitting around the table can decide the most important price in the world (short-term interest rates) better than the market itself is beginning to wear thin. Keeping rates too low for too long in the current cycle brought massive capital misallocation. It resulted in the financialization of a significant part of the business world, in the US and elsewhere. The rules now reward management, not for generating revenue, but to drive up the price of the share price, thus making their options and stock grants more valuable. Coordinated monetary policy is the problem, not the solution. And while I have little hope for change in that regard, I have no hope that monetary policy will rescue us from the next crisis. Let me amplify that last line: Not only is there no hope monetary policy will save us from the next crisis, it will help cause the next crisis. The process has already begun.

Radical Actions In September of this year, something still unexplained (at least to my satisfaction, although I know many analysts who believe they know the reasons) happened in the “repo” short-term financing market. Liquidity dried up, interest rates spiked, and the Fed stepped in to save the day. I wrote about it at the time in Decoding the Fed.

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