Posts Tagged ‘stimulus package’

Fiscal Chemotherapy Masquerading As Cure For Global Economic Crisis

February 4th, 2009 Comments off
During the medieval epoch, the pseudo-science of alchemy arose to enable the primitive economies of Europe, during the Dark Ages, to transcend their feudal limitations. Alchemists claimed they could transmute base metals into gold through their mysterious machinations. It never worked, yet for centuries alchemists aroused the hopes of vast multitudes of the savviest citizens of their era. Flash forward to the dawn of the 21st century, and we are witnessing the emergence of a new pseudo-science as the center of salvation for the ravages of the Global Economic Crisis.

The inept policy-makers and their legions of technocrats, as with the alchemists of so long ago, are claiming that their own permutation of economics will somehow create gold out of thin air, thus terminating the Global Economic Crisis and restoring prosperity. They tried monetary policy, however with interest rates on central bank funds in many major economies at effectively a rate of zero, and the global economy only falling further into the abyss, a new bag of tricks must be offered to the pubic.

The massive debt-driven stimulus spending plans being unveiled with monotonous regularity by the political leaders of the major economies are nothing more than fiscal chemotherapy. With the Global Economic Crisis having metastasized beyond the point of containment, this disastrous flirtation with national insolvency by policy-makers will only accelerate the path to global economic disintegration.

The major proponent of fiscal chemotherapy is the United States, which will in the near future pass a so-called “economic recovery plan” that will initially cost one trillion dollars over two years. However, even without this stimulus plan, the U.S. federal budget is already projected to incur a deficit of $1.2 trillion. Add in the stimulus, plus hundreds of billions of more dollars required for bank bailouts beyond the $700 billion TARP fiasco, then factor in the sharp decline in revenue from taxation as businesses go bankrupt and millions more Americans lose their jobs, and it is clear that the U.S. Treasury will have to borrow far more than even the stratospheric projection of $1.2 trillion. But it gets worse.

Politicians close to the Obama administration, as well as some economists who stand by the Keynesian formula for combating economic recessions, have already strongly hinted that the $1 trillion stimulus package will not be nearly enough to resolve the economic crisis, and will have to be massively enlarged and repeated. What this in effect means is that the United States will be compelled to borrow untold trillions of dollars for years to come. Now, with domestic credit possibilities utterly exhausted, it is to foreign creditors that the U.S. Treasury must look to for financing the profligate budgetary deficits of the United States.

Unfortunately for the U.S. Treasury Department, virtually every major economic actor on the planet is also replicating grandiose deficit spending wrapped up as stimulus packages. This includes almost all the G7 and BRIC countries. More alarming for the U.S., one of those nations is China, looked upon as the major source of available credit by the Treasury Department. However, China currently has its own priorities, now that the Global Economic Crisis is beginning to batter the world’s third largest economy in severe ways. A normally reticent Chinese government has disclosed that the number of unemployed migrant workers in their country now tops 20 million. It is for that reason that the authorities in China have begun a stimulus-spending program currently budgeted at $600 billion, but almost certainly to grow substantially beyond that figure.

The economic contraction hitting China means far fewer surplus dollars generated by Chinese savers. The credit pool in China is now shrinking, and most of those funds will logically be used to finance the government’s operating deficit in China, as opposed to the United States.

If China dries up as a source of credit for the U.S. government, where is the alternative? The Gulf Arab states are also being lacerated by the Global Economic Crisis, as the implosion of oil commodity prices has created severe budgetary constraints in the previously abundant coffers of OPEC. As with China, whatever sovereign wealth or other surplus funds are still available will be directed in the first instance towards enhanced domestic spending deemed necessary to maintain social cohesion.

The essential point is that the fiscal chemotherapy that suggests that, as with a cancer patient, the toxicity of the medicine, in this case budgetary deficits, must be absorbed for the short-term to preserve the long-term health of the patient is nonsensical in the extreme. There simply will not be enough credit in the entire world to finance the budgetary deficits that are likely to arise in the United States as well as other major economies. Rather than pursue the only sane fiscal option available, namely radical budgetary surgery (as with massive trimming of bloated U.S. military spending), the mediocre elites dominating U.S. decision-making circles have chosen to go down the route of fiscal chemotherapy and economic alchemy, which can only result in terminal consequences for the American economy.


President Barack Obama Confronts The Global Economic Crisis

January 27th, 2009 Comments off
As the global economy implodes, there remains the “audacity of hope,” or rather the author of the best selling book with that title, now 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. If anything, the whole world, not just the U.S., is placing its hopes-and bets-on President Obama to provide the change in leadership believed necessary to bring the raging Global Economic Crisis under control. Will these global hopes in Barack Obama be realized?No doubt, President Barack Obama is an exceptionally intelligent man. He has a flexible mind and superb communications skills, essential for inspiring confidence in times of crisis. However, it must be recognized that the global financial and economic catastrophe that began in America and is now consuming the globe may be of such virulence and persistence, it is beyond the powers of any single mortal man, no matter how gifted, to vanquish.

We must remember that not even Barack Obama walks on water, though a miracle worker is perhaps the only human being that can terminate the Global Economic Crisis with rapidity and no further pain. The approach adopted by Obama so far in confronting the economic crisis, though manifesting a clear realization of its seriousness, is also impeded by a conventionality that may be his biggest obstacle.

As with the other boilerplate responses from political leaders across the globe, the Obama administration is proposing a massive stimulus package, dubbed the “American Economic Recovery Plan,” financed with borrowed money. This follows a previous injection of borrowed money, $700 billion for TARP, supposedly essential for rescuing the banks. It is now clear that the $700 billion TARP spending frenzy was a fiasco. As has since been admitted by top Treasury Department officials, Hank Paulson, former Treasury Secretary, pulled the $700 billion out of thin air, because he wanted a “big number” to impress the markets. Such a cavalier attitude towards stampeding Congress into borrowing a staggering amount of money, equivalent to roughly $2,500 from every American man, woman and child, without any strings attached on the part of the banks receiving the money, explains its total failure to resuscitate the clogged arteries of the U.S. credit system. This example is not an encouraging harbinger for another dose of heavy deficit spending in a hurry by Washington.

The Obama Plan envisions $825 billion in borrowed money for a variety of projects and tax cuts. Though Obama promises a much higher level of accountability with his stimulus package than with TARP, that is not even the most crucial issue. It is the whole premise of Obama’s economic plan. What are the parameters and assumptions that led to a figure of $825 billion? On top of the already ballooning federal budget deficit, can the U.S. government raise another $825 billion from largely foreign credit markets (e.g. China), and at what interest rates? What if the Obama Plan has no significant impact on rapidly eroding macroeconomic indicators, while the exploding national debt and structural deficits remove any other fiscal options from consideration?

The proper context for President Barack Obama to view the Global Economic Crisis is not just as a catastrophe for the U.S. and world economy, but also as the gravest danger to American national security. If the Obama administration had a broad enough intellectual horizon to comprehend that the erosion in American geopolitical power that would inevitably result from the implosion of its economy is a far greater threat than what emanates from a non-state actor with a few thousand adherents, namely Al-Qaeda, it would review the irrationally excessive U.S. military budget.

The question Barack Obama should be reflecting on is if the U.S. should continue to spend a trillion dollars a year on its military establishment, and hope that the global credit markets will finance unfunded government liabilities in other categories in perpetuity. Ultimately, the global economic and financial tsunami cannot be combated by bloated military budgets. It is critical that there is a radical restructuring of U.S. budgetary priorities, or else Imperial overreach will finish what is left of U.S. economic power, after the meltdowns on Wall Street and Main Street have added their unique contributions to the deconstruction of the U.S. economy


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Obama’s Stimulus Program And Deficit Spending: An Alternative Response To The Economic Crisis

December 25th, 2008 Comments off
The incoming Obama administration has yet to finalize the size of its economic stimulus package. Clearly, however, it will be of vast proportions. The numbers being speculated on keep inclining upwards, most recently in the $800 billion range. When it is put into effect after Barack Obama is inaugurated as America’s 44th president, it is likely to approach one trillion dollars, a sum equal to 20 % of the entire national debt of the United States only 8 years ago, when George W. Bush became the 43rd president. With the global economic crisis raging and financial markets imploding, most politicians and economists argue that only a gargantuan infusion of deficit dollars can stimulate the American economy to the point where the recession can be arrested. The question is, are the politicians and experts correct?
No doubt, the U.S. economy is undergoing its worst crisis since the Great Depression. Many experts point to the failure of the Hoover administration after the 1929 stock market crash to inject stimulus into the economy with deficit dollars as a significant contributing factor to the aggravation of the Great Depression. Other experts, acknowledging that the New Deal of President Franklin Roosevelt did not entirely eliminate the worst ravages of the Great Depression, claim that the decision by Roosevelt in 1937 to end the pump priming and restore fiscal balance in the Federal Budget initiated a severe recession following initial recovery after 1933.

The weakness with all these arguments is that those advocating them have tried to construct an economic rescue paradigm based on 1929 and its aftermath. While some parallels between the current Global Economic Crisis and Great Depression no doubt exist, every epoch in history, including economic crises, have their own unique reality. What may or may not have worked in the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal is not necessarily analogous to the prescription required for the current economic emergency confronting the United States.

The years leading up to the collapse of the world financial system and current global economic crisis were ones of unprecedented deficit spending by the U.S. government. Under President Bush, taxes for the most affluent Americans were slashed while government spending across the board, but especially in the military sphere, skyrocketed. The result was that even before massive governmental spending was initiated, as the economic crisis became more acute, Bush’s economic policy had already in place budgetary practices in the category of major fiscal stimulus. The fact that the national debt of the United States doubled from $5 trillion to nearly $10 trillion before the onset of the global financial crisis is a reflection of that fiscal reality.

Economists rightly point to the demand destruction that is crippling the world economy. In the United States this has had a severe impact, considering that more than 70 % of America’s GDP is derived from consumer spending. Accordingly, in this time of economic crisis, the government must substitute for the downfall in retail and business activity by regenerating demand in the economy. However, replicating the fiscal and monetary indiscipline of the past 8 years will only lay the seeds for far worse financial turmoil. There is another alternative for policy makers to consider, which offers a structural as opposed to a Band-Aid cure for the global economic crisis, especially in its impact on the American economy.

If the incoming Obama administration were to reverse the massive increases in military spending undertaken by George W. Bush, several hundred billion dollars a year can be redirected from unneeded defense department allocations to the civilian economy, including funding for massive infrastructure projects. Since the staggering increases in military spending are premised on the threat posed by one enemy, a non-state actor called Al-Qaeda, a fundamental question must be answered by the incoming Obama administration: what poses the greatest risk to America’s national security- a non-state actor with a few thousand adherents, or a global economic crisis that threatens to bankrupt the United States, and destroy its economic power, which is the basis of its military power? It may very well be that redirecting hundreds of billions of dollars from expensive new weapons systems that may be unnecessary for the defense of the nation to the civilian economy will be a sounder approach to financing a major economic stimulus program than continuing to add to the indebtedness of the national economy.