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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Instant Gratification Rules in American Fiscal Policy

With an expected deficit of $1.2 trillion for 2018-2019, the U.S. Government in December, 2017 enacted a tax cut with an expected revenue loss of nearly $1 trillion over a decade (assuming some growth from the tax stimulus) and, two months later, a budget deal passed adding $300 billion to federal spending in the next fiscal year.[1] All this was done with the U.S. debt at over $20 trillion—higher than the annual GDP at the time. With the  economy humming along with a low unemployment rate, the prospect for any fiscal discipline was bleak. Put another way, if budget surpluses could not come at the boom end of an economic cycle, then deficits would be likely in good times and bad. Behind the structural imbalance of contiguous deficits and an ever-growing debt is the all-too-human preference for instant gratification without a corresponding value being placed on self-discipline.

The full essay is at "$20 Trillion in Debt!"


[1] Neil Irwin, “Austerity Era Comes to End,” The New York Times, February 10, 2018.