US budget deficit

Latest US spending programme could tip country into a recession. Getty Images

By John H. Makin and Daniel Hanson

An abrupt spending sequester at a rate of about $110bn per year ($1.1tn over 10 years) scheduled to begin March 1 could cause a US recession, coming as it does on top of tax increases worth about 1.5 per cent of GDP enacted in January. The April deadline for a continuing resolution to fund federal spending could lead to a fight that shuts down the government, placing a further drag on growth.

These ad hoc measures, aimed at creation of an artificial crisis, will fail to produce prompt, sustainable progress towards reduction of “unsustainable” deficits because deficits have been, and will continue to be for some time, eminently sustainable. The Chicken Little “sky is falling” approach to frightening Congress into significant deficit reduction has failed because the sky has not fallen. Interest rates have not soared as promised and, in fact, interest costs for the federal government have remained steady at a tiny 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product since 2002, having fallen to that level from a 3 per cent average during the decade prior to 1997. 

By Eswar Prasad

Timothy Geithner, in his first foray into international economic affairs as US Treasury secretary, has kicked off a public row with the Chinese by accusing them of currency manipulation. The Chinese have vehemently rebutted this accusation and flexed their own muscles, telling the US to get its own house in order before lecturing others.

The world economy, already on its knees, cannot afford escalating economic tensions between China and the US.