The United States appears to be embarking on a transition on two major fronts: its
Own economy, both financial and real; and its relations with the rest of the world.
There is some relation between these two transitions. Some of these changes will
Depend on the outcome of the U.S. national election in November, and some will
Not. This paper will present a brief overview of current trends, with some attention
Given to U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, as well as other areas.
Sustained and rising budget deficits would affect the economy by absorbing funds from the nation’s pool of savings and reducing investment in the domestic capital stock and in foreign assets. As capital investment dwindled, the growth of workers’ productivity and of real (inflation-adjusted) wages would gradually slow and begin to stagnate. As capital became scarce relative to labor, real interest rates would rise. In the near term, foreign investors would probably increase their financing of investment in the United States, but such borrowing would involve costs over time, as foreign investors would claim larger and larger shares of the nation’s output and fewer resources would be available for domestic consumption.
Given the large deficits in many OECD countries in recent years, and the resulting sharp rise in the public debt, it is important to determine the economic and political forces leading to such large deficits. We find only partial support for the ‘equilibrium approach to fiscal policy’, which assumes that tax rates are set over time in order to minimize the excess burden of taxation. We suggest that in several countries the slow rate at which the post-’73 fiscal deficits were reduced resulted from the difficulties of political management in coalition governments. There is a clear tendency for larger deficits in countries characterized by a short average tenure of government and by the presence of many political parties in a ruling coalition.
The current crisis calls for two main sets of policy measures. First, measures to repair the financial system. Second, measures to increase demand and restore confidence. While some of these measures overlap, the focus of this note is on the second set of policies, and more specifically, given the limited room for monetary policy, on fiscal policy. The optimal fiscal package should be timely, large, lasting, diversified, contingent, collective, and sustainable: timely, because the need for action is immediate; large, because the current and expected decrease in private demand is exceptionally large; lasting because the downturn will last for some time; diversified because of the unusual degree of uncertainty associated with any single measure; contingent, because the need to reduce the perceived probability of another “Great Depression” requires a commitment to do more, if needed; collective, since each country that has fiscal space should contribute; and sustainable, so as not to lead to a debt explosion and adverse.