Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Grand Bargain, So the Economy Gets it!

As a result of the joint Republican/Obama push for austerity, we will finally be hurting the economy at the federal level rather than simply at the state and local level. Dean Baker:

Looking beyond this report, though, there is not much reason for optimism. Housing construction is rising, but from a very low base. It had fallen back to just 2.0% of GDP, so even a 20% growth rate would add just 0.4 percentage points to GDP growth. The most recent data on investment shows a sharp drop, albeit after three months of good growth. We will be fortunate if this category grows at more than a 10% annual rate in 2013.

While an upward revision to the fourth quarter GDP data turned a negative 0.1% into a positive 0.1%, the economy still only grew at a 1.6% annual rate in the second half of 2012. Apart from the uptick in construction, there are few good reasons to expect much of an acceleration from this growth rate. And contrary-wise, the ending of the payroll tax cut will pull more than $100bn a year out of the economy. The impact of this tax increase was just being felt when the February jobs survey was taken in the middle of the month.

The other big hit to the economy will be from the sequester, which will pull roughly $80bn in federal spending out of the economy. The forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office and others show the sequester slowing growth by 0.5-0.6 percentage points. The economy has not even begun to feel the impact of these cuts, most of which will not start to make their effects felt until April.
In short, we have an economy that had been growing at a not-very-healthy pace through the second half of 2012 – and which is virtually certain to be slowed by contractionary fiscal policy through the rest of 2013. Unless there is a rapid reversal of policy, the 7.7% unemployment rate is likely to represent a low we may not see again for some time.

While the economy is not likely to fall into a recession and send the unemployment rate soaring, the economy is not growing fast enough to meet the need for jobs from a growing labor force. As a result, unemployment will be going in the wrong direction for the rest of the year.
This probably a good time to remind people that part of the reason the the sequester was created as a way to force people create a "grand bargain" that would cut social security and medicare. Don't listen to me, listen to Obama economic adviser Gene Spearling's own email to Bob Woodward:

I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
With the economy in it's current state, the Obama Administration was devising ways to force congress to either cut our social insurance programs or hurt the economy. While I'm glad that Republicans unwillingness to make a deal has once again defeated Obama's unending efforts to cut our social insurance, we are now hurting the economy for absolutely by choice, and for no reason. There really aren't words for how stupid this is.

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