Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Difference Indebtedness Makes to Economic Growth ... The Linkage of Debt to Growth Needs to Be Part of the National Discussion ... So Why Don't the Presidential Candidates Tell Us Specifically How They Intend to Solve the Nation's Debt Dilemma?

Well, a few things were made very clear in last night's presidential debate. Obama and Romney don't like each other all that much, and both men really want to be elected as president in November. They sparred aggressively and were quite emotionally engaged. Obama will probably be declared the winner by a close margin, but my guess it wasn't in any way a game changer like the first debate.

But why didn't they discuss the dangers of too much debt? Romney said we have $16 trillion in debt and are on our way to $20 trillion if Obama wins a second term, but he really didn't address what that means to stifling future economic growth. On the other hand, Obama pretty much ignored discussing his economic record, including the debt issue.

So we'll talk about it herein, since the candidates keep avoiding the specifics of why our debt is so economically debilitating and what specifically must be done to solve the problem for future generations. And for that matter, the harmful effects the debt has on current students, job seekers, job holders, consumers, investors and savers as well.

So how big a deal are these ongoing trillion dollar annual deficits, and the present $16 trillion and climbing national debt level, setting aside the unfunded entitlement promises that amount to additional tens of trillions of dollars as well?

Perhaps a more general approach to the problems associated with debt will help our understanding of this ultra important issue. 

In other words, maybe the changing dynamics of different economic growth rates of developing and developed nations when they enter and exit recessions can help us better appreciate the impact of excessive debt levels on an economy's ability to grow, provide jobs and achieve general prosperity for its citizens.

There's a very close linkage of current debt to a nation's future growth and prosperity, in other words.

Developing Economies Become More Resilient provides the necessary clarity:

"83%: Percent of time emerging and developing economies spent in expansion in the 2000s.

For the first time, emerging and developing economies spent more time in expansion in the past decade than advanced nations.
Emerging and developing economies are proving more resilient to downturns, even as advanced economies are spending less time in expansions, the International Monetary Fund noted in their most recent Word Economic Outlook report. In the 1970s and 80s the developing world spent about 33% of their time in downturns, but by the 2000s it was in expansion 83% of the time. The opposite trend is apparent among advanced nations, which have spent more time in downturns in the past two decades.

There are multiple reasons for the increasing resilience of emerging and developing economies. For one, while they remain vulnerable to shocks from abroad, negative domestic events have become less frequent. Even as much of the advanced world suffered through banking crises during 2008-09, the developing world managed to avoid such severe shocks in their local industries.
Further help has come through improved structural frameworks and improved fiscal positions. Most emerging and development economies have external debt levels below 40% of gross domestic product — a key stability threshold cited by economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart."

Summing Up 

Think about the 40% stability threshold of debt to GDP as a benchmark. Then focus on the fact that, depending on how we count, we are already at or near 100% and climbing in the U.S.

It's a huge problem in need of a bipartisan political solution which requires a serious long term plan. Yet the discussion in Washington evidently has to wait until the election is over. That's a crock.

Excessive debt levels are troublesome in many regards, not the least of which is the debilitiating impact they have on both current and future economic growth and therefore job creation and prosperity.

The excessive binge drinking may feel good at the time, but the hangover always comes.

And this one follows a doozy of lots and lots of nights out on the town.

Sooner than later it will be payback time. That's for sure.

Thanks. Bob.

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