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"There is no Federal debt crisis"

Francis Bator in the FT:

Fiscal prudence matters. But the helter skelter rush to cut this year’s and next year’s budget deficits is high-priced folly. For want of enough spending overall by households, businesses and government taken together, i.e., for want of enough buying, a huge amount of production capacity is standing idle, producing nothing. 13.7m unemployed workers — four for every job that is vacant — are searching for jobs instead of working and earning income. At the same time, states and local governments, forced by shrunken revenues and shrinking federal subsidies to curtail their spending, are shutting health centres, allowing roads and bridges to crumble, and laying off nurses, firemen and teachers.

The issue is aggregate demand.

With all that spare capacity, why are businesses not hiring more workers and increasing production? Because their sales people are telling them that there would be no buyers. Debt-burdened households, deficit plagued governments and businesses with a lot of their plant and machines standing idle, are simply not spending enough overall to buy all the goods and services that businesses are easily capable of producing. A trillion dollar per annum shortfall in buying is keeping production by most industries below 2007 levels and the unemployment rate near 9 per cent. And with Treasury bill rates near zero — and core wage-price inflation below target — the Federal Reserve is almost if not quite out of ammunition.

If anyone tells you that cutbacks in this year’s and next year’s federal spending will encourage enough additional private spending to make up the difference — never mind narrow the inherited trillion dollar output and jobs gap — look him hard in the eye and ask him if he’d really bet his children’s tuition money on that proposition. It’s nonsense. Reduced sales to government and lower transfer payments from government, therefore less spendable private income, and more jobless workers and idle factories, will be more likely to cause both households and businesses to reduce their spending.

[T]here is no federal debt crisis (as distinct from a governance crisis and a tax-phobia crisis)....

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