Sunday, February 18, 2018

Goldman: "Federal fiscal policy is entering uncharted territory"

by Bill McBride on 2/18/2018 08:02:00 PM

A few excerpts from a note by Goldman Sachs economists: What’s Wrong with Fiscal Policy?

Federal fiscal policy is entering uncharted territory. ... While most of the recent fiscal expansion has not come as a surprise to us, this nevertheless raises new questions about the plan for US fiscal policy.

The Treasury continues to borrow at low rates and it should be able to do so for a while even if market rates move higher in our view, thanks to a nearly 6-year average maturity of outstanding debt. ... In the past, as the economy strengthens and the debt burden increases, Congress has responded by raising taxes and cutting spending. This time around, the opposite has occurred. ...

While the continued growth of public debt raises eventual sustainability questions if left unchecked, we note that the level of debt at the moment is within the range of several other DM economies, albeit at the high end of the range. Where the US is more of an outlier is in its cyclically adjusted deficit.

The fiscal expansion should boost growth by around 0.7pp in 2018 and 0.6pp in 2019, but will likely come to an end after that ... the growth effect comes from the change in the deficit ... some of the recent deficit expansion relates to changes unlikely to be repeated, such as the temporarily large effect of certain tax provisions.
emphasis added
CR Note: The Federal government is the only entity that can run counter cyclical fiscal policy during a recession (increase spending to offset the downturn). State and local governments cut spending during a recession, as do households. Standard policy would be to reduce the Federal deficit in the later stages of an expansion, and then increase the deficit during the next downturn. The opposite of the current fiscal policy.

Current fiscal policy is really in "uncharted territory".