El blog reúne material de noticias de teoría y aplicaciones de conceptos básicos de economía en la vida diaria. Desde lo micro a lo macro pasando por todas las vertientes de los coyuntural a lo más abstracto de la teoría. La ciencia económica es imperial.
TYLER COWEN is quick to link to pieces calling into question the extent to which austerity plans have been austere. Here is the latest example. He quotes a Washington Poststory, which reads:
To sketch the bill’s biggest impacts, The Washington Post focused on the 16 largest individual cuts. Each, in theory, sliced at least $500 million from the federal budget. Together, they accounted for $26.1 billion, two-thirds of the total.
In four of those cases, the real-world impact was difficult to measure. The Department of Homeland Security officially declined to comment about a $557 million reduction. The Department of State, the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Emergency Management Agency — whose cuts totaled $1.9 billion — simply did not answer The Post’s questions despite repeated requests over the past month.
Among the other 12 cases, there were at least seven where the cuts caused only minimal real-world disruptions or none at all.
Often, this was made possible by a little act of Washington magic. Agencies got credit for killing what was, in reality, already dead.
Well, ok. But if this is so, then why is a bank like Goldman Sachs, which has little incentive as far as I can tell to stumble dumbly into rah-rah Keynesianism, warning of an ongoing, significant decline in federal government spending?
Maybe lots of promised cuts turned out to be "cuts". But the record shows that total federal governmentoutlays were 25.2% of GDP in 2009, 24.1% of GDP in 2011, and 22.8% in 2012. (Receipts rose from 15.1% of GDP in 2009 to 15.4% in 2011 to 15.8% in 2012.)
Both outlays and receipts are, as a share of GDP, below pre-crisis levels. And while receipts are now forecast to rise back to pre-crisis level by 2014, outlays are expected to remain about two percentage points higher than before the recession. But the point remains that the "austerity" of 2011-2012 wasn't "austerity" but austerity. Federal government spending fell by a meaningful share of GDP over that period. So did federal government employment, which dropped by 31,000 jobs in 2011 and 45,000 jobs in 2012. What's more, we have good reason to believe that these cuts entailed positive multipliers above those we'd observe in normal times. You don't have to take the IMF's word for it; even stimulus sceptics like Valerie Ramey find that multipliers may sometimes be above normal, and above one, during periods of economic slack.
The cuts may amount to less than initial rhetoric suggested (and who is surprised!). They may not "hurt" in the way small-government types would wish them to hurt, in that meaningful reductions in the resources available to state interests or state-dependent interests have not come to much. But that does not mean that spending hasn't fallen, by a significant amount, with clear impacts for the macroeconomy and those within it who would like to be working but aren't.
Update: A bit more information to make clear that the change in outlay/GDP ratio isn't solely about growth: the CBO indicates that in current-dollar terms total outlays fell from 2011 to 2012 (by about $50 billion). CBO reckons outlays will fall again, also in nominal terms, from 2012 to 2013.