Congressional Budget Office
I left yesterday for the bobbling heads - to the artists of verbiage that weave arguments of their own accomplishments much as the artists of Three Card Monty hide the truth behind their shells. Yesterday we had a nice rally in the equity markets. No surprise; the sigh of relief was palpable that Congress did something, anything to address our fall over the cliff. I would not get too excited however. We raised taxes, we penalized those succeeding and we did it in a meaningful manner. We did not cut the national debt as sung by the chorus across the airwaves. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office we decreased revenues by $3.6 trillion over ten years. We did not protect the middle class, but because of the expiration of the payroll tax decrease, Federal taxes will rise for 77% of all working Americans. Thus we rewarded non-working Americans at the expense of those with jobs. The game was the continuation of postponement and avoidance and reckless governance of the nation.
This deal has made our debt problems worse.
While elated that the full 3.5% US fiscal drag was avoided, many observers are understandably dissatisfied with the fiscal compromise that was struck.
Marianne Faithfull's song "What's the Hurry" may ironically offer some insight. She asked, "What's the panic, where's the static?" That seems to be the key. The fiscal cliff in the US was never about economics, but always about politics. The politicians had tied their own hands and lo and behold figured out a way to untie them.
Politicians, regardless of nationality or political persuasion, like the people they represent, are loath to make difficult decisions unless they are forced. The pressures that usually emanates from large deficits and debt is inflation and higher interest rates. These are not present in the US. Contrary to the claims of many economists, US interest rates remain low as does inflation.
Moody's has stepped forward with the first warning shot across the bow that:
- *MOODY'S: MORE MEDIUM TERM ACTIONS MAY BE NEEDED TO SUPPORT Aaa
Has contradicted itself (from September) on the debt-ceiling breach; and warns that while the deal 'mitigates' some fiscal drag, it does not remove it. To wit: the IMF piles on:
- *IMF SAYS `MORE REMAINS TO BE DONE' ON U.S. PUBLIC FINANCES
- *IMF SAYS U.S. DEBT CEILING SHOULD BE RAISED `EXPEDITIOUSLY'
Full statements below.
"The scaled-down deal passed in the Senate addressed the fiscal cliff but did nothing to address longer term fiscal health of the nation. This puts the US rating at risk for a downgrade. However, credit rating agencies may decide to wait and see what emerges from the subsequent talks. There is an implicit new cliff at the end of February related to the sequester and to the expected exhaustion of extraordinary measures related to the debt ceiling. This date is expected to be used by Republicans as leverage for spending cuts. President Obama has already signaled that a new round of spending cuts – those related to the sequester as well as entitlement spending – will have to be matched by additional revenue increases. Therefore entitlement and tax reform are likely to be at the center of discussions over the next two months."
And so after much pomp and posturing over the past 48 hours, much of which will likely reshape the layout of the GOP in both chambers, both the Senate and the House passed the first concurrent tax hike and permanent tax cuts in about two decades. The net result of this will be a roughly 1% drag on GDP, even as the US budget deficit increases relative to the CBO's old baseline, and the beneficial impact from the tax hikes offsets roughly two weeks of spending. In other words, while addressing the tax part of the equation, politicians delayed the spending part of the problem for exactly 60 days by punting on the expiration of the sequester, or the government spending cuts. They also delayed addressing the debt ceiling, perhaps the most integral part of the Fiscal Cliff, which has now been breached and which as of this moment means the US can't incur one additional dollar in additional debt. So looking forward it means the US now has about 4 separate cliffs: the debt ceiling cliff in February/March, the sequester cliff in March, the farm bill cliff in September and the expiration of jobless benefits on December.But that's all in the future, and it will all be a function of just how quickly the GOP rolls over to once again confirm that when it comes to the stock market, America has just one political party. The party of up at all costs, which in turn is manifested right now in the first futures print of the New Year, with both the S&P and the DJIA futures up nearly 2%, and with the E-Mini up some 50 points, or half a turn of S&P multiple expansion in two trading sessions: a nice rally to show just who Washington truly works for.
UPDATE: *LATOURETTE SAYS CANTOR WON'T SUPPORT BILL 'IN CURRENT FORM'
It seems all is not going according to plan in D.C.. Perhaps it was the $4 Trillion deficit rampage the CBO just scored, or that the Republicans awoke from their slumber but as House meetings end, it appears Citi's worst case scenario is about to take place - the bill is going back to the Senate with spending cut amendments. As Politico notes, amending the bill would throw into serious flux the carefully negotiated agreement between Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. While headlines noted the possibility, Rep Spencer Baucus (via Robert Costa) just confirmed the deal will "go back to the Senate."
- *BACHUS SAYS HOUSE REPUBLICANS 'THERE' ON TAX PROVISIONS
- *BACHUS SAYS HOUSE MAY SEND BILL BACK WITH SPENDING CUTS ADDED
One thing is clear, Politico adds: there is serious disdain among House Republicans for what the Senate did in the middle of the night. Retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio asked House Republicans why the House would “heed the votes of sleep deprived octogenarians,” according to a source in the meeting.
First - it is no longer the "Bush (temporary) tax cut" - it is now the "Obama (permanent) tax cut", with a loophole for the 1%ers (whose big picture "impact" we showed previously)
Second - according to the just released scoring by the CBO, the total impact to the US budget deficit of said permanent tax cuts, will be a $4 trillion increase in the deficit over the next decade. In reality, due to the CBO's perpetual optimistic bias, this number will likely be orders of magnitude lower than what it ends up being.
Maybe the US can just increase the taxes on the uber wealthy some more, and pray that unlike Obelix, they have never heard of Belgium.
Maybe I should get a Nobel, that, or maybe PK shouldn't have one…..
When it comes to US austerity, a very sensitive topic as framed best by the "spending cuts" portion in the Fiscal Cliff debate, the ideas range from the surreal to the outright idiotic: as an example in the most recent Obama proposal spending would be "reduced" in the form of $290 billion in interest savings - not an actual spending reduction, but a hope and a prayer that because rates are lower, the government will "save" money with rates continuing to be lower (something which immediately causes a #Ref! explosion for anyone not using government math), $130 billion in savings that would come from once again rejiggering the definition of 'inflation', as well as "savings" from not funding extra defense spending because the US is not engaged in a pro forma war. Like we said: surreal and idiotic, or in other words, no actual real cuts to spending. Yet even as the nation is gripped by the melodrama of fake spending cuts offset by the threat to tax millionaires more (all of whom will merely find more creative and effective ways to hide their wealth and income offshore), spending increases are all too real, such as last night's order by Obama's just issued an executive order to end the pay freeze for federal employees, which is the equivalent of a wage increase. A truly deserved rise in wages for a job well done by the most dysfunctional Congress America has ever seen.
The beginning of the year has traditionally been a time of optimism when we all look forward to the exciting things that are going to happen over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of things about 2013 that we already know are going to stink. Taxes are going to go up, good paying jobs will continue to leave the country, small businesses will continue to be destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty will continue to soar, our infrastructure will continue to decay, global food supplies will likely continue to dwindle and the U.S. national debt will continue to explode. Our politicians continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess, and yet they continue to expect things to magically turn around. But that is not the way that things work in the real world. Bad decisions lead to bad outcomes. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything will be “okay” somehow is not going to help anyone.
In the recent aftermath of the US just concluding its fourth consecutive fiscal year with a $1 trillion+ deficit, we have been flooded with requests to show how the current fiscal situation stacks up in a big picture context. Very big picture context. For all those requests, we present the following chart showing total US Federal debt/GDP as well as Deficit/(Surplus)/GDP since inception, or in this case as close as feasible, or 1792, which appears to be the first recorded year of historical fiscal data. We can see why readers have been so eager to see the "real big picture" - the chart is nothing short of stunning.
The tactic of quoting CBO predictions was a constant during the Presidential campaign and now the Fiscal Cliff debacle. But the CBO’s long-term track record of constantly missing the mark seems pretty obvious to anyone paying attention. It’s like a weatherman in Seattle who tells you that every day is going to be sunny. At some point, a reasonable person just stops listening. The problem is that people have been deluded for so long into believing that economics is an actual science... and so it must be true. Well, for a time, so was bloodletting. Or the ‘ethnic sciences’. The whole argument is a clever deception, all to conceal a simple truth: that the US has long since passed the point of no return where they’re borrowing more money just to pay interest on money they’ve already borrowed. There is no victor in the debate. Only an entire nation of losers, and a tiny handful of people who see the writing on the wall and take steps now to prepare. Which are you?
Denial doesn't change reality. It only cripples our response to reality. Psychologists and behavioral economists have found that we deceive ourselves (conceal the truth) to serve our own interests. Perhaps this is why the mainstream ignores the Id Monsters in the shadows: shadow banking, shadow housing inventory and shadow liabilities.
Who knows? I might even become an EE'er. This joke is on me.