What a Big Deficit You've Got There, Mr. President
Comment of the Day

December 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What a Big Deficit You've Got There, Mr. President

This article by Justin Fox for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It’s also important to note that the natural tendency in a growing economy, absent any tax changes, is for revenue to rise. Real revenue dropped in 2016, but that was because of the mini- recession that had started the year before. Revenue has risen during every other year of the current recovery. This year the economy is growing at what may turn out to be the fastest pace since the 2000s, around 3 percent, yet revenue is down. Some of that economic growth is surely due to the tax cuts and to this year’s spending increases, but it’s clear that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has so far displayed none of the magical revenue-increasing properties that some of its supporters claimed for it last year. If we take last year’s revenue growth of 1.1 percent as the — very conservative — baseline, it would seem instead to have so far resulted in a revenue decline of 3.5 percent, or $109 billion.

Federal spending, meanwhile, is up an inflation-adjusted 2.9 percent so far this year. That’s bigger than the revenue decrease but smaller than last year’s 3.5 percent increase. Overall, my read of the two charts above is that the overall shift since 2015 from shrinking deficits to rising ones has been mainly about rising spending, but the increase in the deficit this year has been mainly about the tax cuts.

Eoin Treacy's view

It is generally accepted that counter cyclical policies are the most appropriate for any economy. You loosen when the going is tough and tighten when the going is good and that is expected to keep growth relatively steady with less aggressive peak to trough swings.

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