Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cowen on the Necessity of Spending Cuts

Here's the summary of a NYT article by Tyler Cowen on the looming US fiscal disaster:

AMERICA’S long-run fiscal outlook is bleak, mostly because of an aging population and rising health care costs. To close the gap between expenditures and revenue, we’ll likely see a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts. And we’ll need to focus especially on reducing spending, largely because that taxes on the wealthy can be raised only so high. ...

The macroeconomic evidence also suggests the wisdom of emphasizing spending cuts. In a recent paper, Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna, economics professors at Harvard, found that in developed countries, spending cuts were the key to successful fiscal adjustments — and were generally better for the economy than tax increases. Their conclusion was based on data since 1970 from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The received wisdom in the United States is that deep spending cuts are politically impossible. But a number of economically advanced countries, including Sweden, Finland, Canada and, most recently, Ireland, have cut their government budgets when needed. ...

Right now there is plenty of concern about debt and deficits, but little consensus on which expenditures should be cut or reined in. Sooner or later, we’ll have to reconsider virtually every segment of the federal budget.

The issue of fiscal responsibility isn’t going away. So the question is now this: How deeply will we dig ourselves in before we create a more mature and more forward-looking political culture?

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