Wednesday, September 17, 2014
9

Amerikas begrenzte Wahlmöglichkeit

NEWPORT BEACH – Die allgemeine Ansicht über die Präsidentenwahlen in den Vereinigten Staaten im November ist nur teilweise richtig. Ja, wirtschaftliche Themen werden für das Ergebnis eine große Rolle spielen. Aber der nächste Schritt in der Argumentation – dass sich der Sieger des zunehmend hässlichen Wettbewerbs den Luxus erlauben kann, eine deutlich andere Politik als sein Widersacher zu machen – ist viel zweifelhafter.

Entgegen der Aussagen der Kampagnen von Obama und Romney wird der Amtsinhaber zu Beginn der nächsten Amtszeit bei der Wirtschaftspolitik nur wenig Spielraum haben. Vielmehr liegen die möglichen Unterschiede für die USA woanders, was die Wähler erst richtig verstehen müssen. Sie bestehen im Bereich der Sozialpolitik, die die ähnlichen wirtschaftlichen Maßnahmen begleitet, und hier sind die Unterschiede zwischen den Kandidaten erheblich.

Der Gewinner wird nächstes Jahr ein mageres Wirtschaftswachstum von höchstens 2% vorfinden, das möglicherweise völlig zum Erliegen kommt. Die Arbeitslosenquote wird immer noch viel zu hoch sein und zur Hälfte aus schwer vermittelbaren Langzeitarbeitslosen bestehen – und noch mehr, wenn wir (wie wir sollten) die Millionen Amerikaner mitzählen, die aus dem Arbeitsmarkt ausgeschieden sind.

Auch die Finanzseite der Wirtschaft wird Grund zur Besorgnis geben. Das Haushaltsdefizit wird sich weiterhin an der Grenze zu 10% des BIP bewegen, was für die mittelfristige Schuldendynamik des Landes nichts Gutes erwarten lässt. Der Bankensektor wird immer noch Risiken abbauen, indem er den Fluss der Kredite an kleine und mittelgroße Unternehmen einschränkt, was zu weniger Beschäftigung und geringeren Investitionen in Anlagen und Geräte führt. Und die Privathaushalte werden ihre schmerzhafte Entschuldungsphase nur teilweise vollendet haben.

An der politischen Front gibt es ebenfalls Grund zur Unruhe. Der US-Kongress wird nach langen Streitigkeiten die Lösung dieser Probleme kaum weiter verschieben können. Inzwischen wird der unübliche Aktivismus der Notenbank mit ihrer immer größeren Liste experimenteller Maßnahmen immer weniger hilfreich sein und zu wachsenden Kosten und Risiken führen.

Die US-Wirtschaft wird sich auch in einem immer schwierigeren weltweiten Umfeld bewegen. Die Schuldenkrise Europas wird sich in den nächsten Monaten wahrscheinlich verschlimmern. Während sich das Wachstum in den Entwicklungsländern (einschließlich China) verlangsamt und die internationale politische Koordination weiterhin zu wünschen übrig lässt, wird sich im Zuge des Wettbewerbs der Haupthandelsmächte um einen stagnierenden Gesamtmarkt der protektionistische Druck erhöhen.

Ob im November also Präsident Barack Obama oder Mitt Romney gewinnt: Der nächste Präsident wird dadurch eingeschränkt sein, dass er sich gleichzeitig um die wirtschaftliche Stabilisierung und um längerfristige Reformen kümmern muss. Und mit Gegenwind aus Europa und einer allgemeinen globalen Verlangsamung werden die Kandidaten zumindest zu Beginn keine Wahl haben, als zur Wiederbelebung des Arbeitsmarktes und der finanziellen Stabilität ähnliche Maßnahmen zu ergreifen.

Der wichtigste Schritt, um die Balance zwischen sofortiger wirtschaftlicher Stimulation und mittelfristiger Haushaltsstabilität zu finden, besteht darin, die drohende Haushaltsklippe auszugleichen, während temporäre Steuersenkungen auslaufen und automatisch umfassende und weitreichende Ausgabenreduzierungen in Kraft treten. Sollte dies nicht gelingen, würde sich das Risiko erhöhen, dass die USA in eine waschechte Rezession geraten.

Um die wiederholten Fehler des Kongresses wieder gut zu machen, sind ernsthafte mittelfristige Haushaltsreformen nötig. Und wenn der nächste Präsident realistische Zahlen präsentiert bekommt, wird er bald feststellen, dass er für den richtigen Mix von Steuer- und Ausgabenreformen viel weniger Spielraum hat, als die jetzigen politischen Aussagen suggerieren. Sicherlich wird es kein Fall von entweder/oder sein.

Haushaltsreformen funktionieren am besten, wenn die Wirtschaft dynamisch ist. Um dies zu erreichen, müssen Obama und Romney die Hindernisse beseitigen, die dem Wachstum und der Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen entgegen stehen. Auch hier – in Bereichen wie Wohnen, Arbeitsmarkt, Kreditvermittlung und Infrastruktur – ist weniger Platz zum Manövrieren, als uns die meisten Politiker heute erzählen wollen.

Aber dies bedeutet nicht, dass es keinen Spielraum für Unterschiede gibt. Es gibt sie, und zwar aufgrund der Tatsache, dass die allgemeinen wirtschaftlichen Tendenzen auf vielen Ebenen von Dynamiken unterschiedlicher Geschwindigkeit begleitet werden. Von den bestehenden Unterschieden bei den Arbeitslosenzahlen je nach Fähigkeiten und Ausbildung bis hin zu rekordverdächtigen Ungleichheiten bei Einkommen und Wohlstand: Jede wirtschaftliche Entscheidung wird von der – expliziten oder wahrscheinlich eher impliziten – Notwendigkeit der sozialen Bewertung ihrer Auswirkungen auf die Verteilung begleitet.

Nach einem “Zeitalter” exzessiver Fremdkapitalaufnahme, Schuldenfinanzierung und Kreditansprüche, die 2008 zur weltweiten Finanzkrise führten, stehen die USA immer noch vor der schwierigen Herausforderung, die aufgelaufenen Verluste zu verteilen, die weiterhin den Investitionen, der Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen und der Wettbewerbsfähigkeit im Wege stehen. Bis jetzt hat die exzessive politische Polarisierung im Kongress zu einem Ansatz geführt, der den größten Teil der Anpassungslasten auf diejenigen abwälzt, die ihn am wenigsten tragen können.

In einer idealen Welt würde der nächste US-Präsident schnellstmöglich ein zweistufiges Programm durchführen, um Arbeitsplätze zu schaffen und die Finanzen zu sanieren. Zuerst würde er ein umfassendes Paket praktikabler und wünschenswerter wirtschaftspolitischer Initiativen ins Leben rufen – und hier ist, wie gesagt, die Bandbreite möglicher Differenzen gering. Zweitens würde er diesem ein sozialpolitisches Maßnahmenpaket zur Seite stellen, das explizit die Notwendigkeit gerechter Lastenverteilung berücksichtigt – und hier sind die möglichen Unterschiede gewaltig.

In diesem Wahlkampf geht es nicht wirklich um solche heiß diskutierten Themen wie Ausgliederung, Steuererhöhungen oder Sozialreformen, Regierungskontrolle oder ungehinderte Aktivität des Privatsektors und Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen oder Trittbrettfahrer. Wichtiger sind vielmehr die dahinter stehenden Konzepte von sozialer Fairness, Berechtigungen, Gleichheit, und, ja, Verhaltensstandards für eine reiche und zivilisierte Gesellschaft.

Diese Wahl handelt von sozialer Verantwortung – der gesellschaftlichen Verpflichtung, diejenigen zu unterstützen, die ohne eigenes Verschulden Schwierigkeiten haben, Arbeit zu finden und über die Runden zu kommen. Es geht darum, die verletzlichsten Schichten der Gesellschaft zu schützen und ihnen Zugang zu angemessener Gesundheitsfürsorge zu bieten. Es geht darum, ein Ausbildungssystem zu reformieren, das den jungen Amerikanern nicht gerecht wird (und diejenigen umzuschulen, die es nötig haben). Zu den zahlreichen Themen, die von Fairness und Gleichheit handeln, gehört auch, dass die Reichen an ein System, das ihnen unvorstellbaren Wohlstand gebracht hat, etwas zurückzahlen.

Dies sind die Punkte, wo die Unterschiede zwischen Obama und Romney wichtig sind. Je eher sich die Kampagnen darauf konzentrieren, desto wahrscheinlicher wird es, dass die Amerikaner eine gute Wahl treffen und sich damit an der gemeinsamen Anstrengung beteiligen, die nötig ist, um den nationalen Niedergang abzuwenden.

Aus dem Englischen von Harald Eckhoff

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  1. CommentedAlexander Antonov

    Reality of crisis-proof economy
    Alexander A. Antonov
    telan@bk.ru

    Economics as an exact science has not yet been developed. This is confirmed by the fact that the major economic phenomenon – economic crises – has no comprehensive explanation. This is accounted for by the lack of an appropriate mathematical description of economics, which is natural, because none of the mathematical tools used in economics allow giving such a mathematical description.
    Firstly, all of them are aimed at the investigation of mass phenomena, because the economic behavior of an individual is unpredictable. For instance, Sir Isaac Newton wrote on the issue that simulating human behavior is a more complicated task than predicting planetary motion. However, try to imagine the development of radio-electronics, if it refused to study the processes in radio-electronic components comprising all complicated radio-electronic systems due to the unpredictable behavior of single electrons.
    Secondly, the methods for analysis of economic situations widely used at present – graphical, statistical, econophysical – allow defining only states, and not processes.
    Processes are defined by differential equations, which have found quite restricted application in economics.
    This is why, using the term introduced by William Ross Ashby, economics can be referred to as ‘the black box’ and studied using the methods borrowed from the exact sciences. In particular, the term ‘the white box’ introduced by Norbert Wiener can be used; it corresponds to the object under investigation where processes identical in terms of their mathematical description to those in ‘the black box’ are observed. Moreover, mathematical description of the processes in ‘the white box’ is available. That is, basically, the analogy approach is used.
    Unfortunately, ‘the white box’ in the exact sciences has not yet been found for the current market economy. This is how complicated and unique economic phenomena are. Nevertheless, ‘the white box’ does exist for the economy reformed as suggested below.
    However, to begin with, let us find ‘the white box’ not for economics in general, but for the basic process, which is the ‘goods-money-goods’ process. The author demonstrates that this process is potentially oscillating and can be described with a second-degree differential equation with constant coefficients, similar to the mathematical description of the process in a radio-electronic oscillation circuit. That is, an electric oscillation circuit can be used as ‘the white box’ with regard to the ‘goods-money-goods’ process.
    However, such an oscillation process is unknown in the economy and has never before been implemented. The matter is that its implementation requires special conditions which cannot be created in a random way. Similarly, for instance, TVs and cars are not assembled at random, houses and bridges are not built in a random fashion, and food cannot get into a supermarket randomly, and so on. Any constructive activities always require certain knowledge, and economics is not an exception.
    In this respect, it is quite natural to ask whether economics needs these oscillation processes and the respective knowledge about them. Actually, it does, because only in this case money works all the time and most efficiently. Otherwise, there is always either shortage or surplus of money. As for oscillation processes, they are preferred and widely used not only in economics, but in nature and the exact sciences, as well. Here belong, for example, rotation of electrons around the nucleus and the revolution of planets about the Sun. Nothing can exist without the oscillation processes. Therefore, they should not be ignored in any science.
    However, due to ignorance of these circumstances, the actual economic process ‘goods-money-goods’ is described not with a linear differential equation with constant coefficients, but with a linear differential equation with variable coefficients, which is often referred to as the parametric differential equation. This is accounted for by the aforementioned unpredictability of human behavior, or the human factor, which was referred to as ‘the invisible hand’ by Adam Smith. For this reason, the coefficients of the parametric differential equation describing the real ‘goods-money-goods’ process are not just functions of time, but random functions of time. Therefore, these differential equations have no analytical solution. As for the market economy which is described by systems of these parametric differential equations, it is unpredictable; this is why economic crises in it are inevitable.
    Consequently, in order to be able to prevent economic crises, it is necessary to reform the economy. To this end, it is necessary to create the conditions providing for minimization of the human factor. The author suggests new economic tools enabling to solve the problem. Here belong business-interfaces, which provide for minimization of the internal human factor, and the new global information network free from the shortcomings of the Internet, which provides for minimization of the external human factor. The latter offers its users numerous business- and intellectually-oriented services.
    Socialist economy also provided for the successful suppression of the human factor (at that, contrary to business-interfaces, human rights and freedoms were suppressed, as well). Nevertheless, it was a prosperous economy. Therefore, business-interfaces must provide for linearization of the actual ‘goods-money-goods’ processes, i.e., for minimization of non-linear factors.
    The economy reformed as suggested above will become crisis-proof, and economics will become an exact science similar to the theory of electric circuits and systems, which is ‘the white box’ with regard to ‘the black box’ of economics.

  2. CommentedThomas Haynie

    This is all well and good but to get ANYTHING done we need a Congress that is willing to play ball in ANY form if Obama gets it. The blatant obstruction to anything possibly beneficial is flat out shameful. Of course if Mitt’s policies turn out to be quite similar it will be all rainbows and sunshine.

  3. CommentedMark Pitts

    Sorry for the typo. That should have read "1/4 to 1/2 of 1% of annual GDP." The point is that any net benefit to the average citizen is de minimus.

  4. CommentedMark Pitts

    Mr. El-Erian misrepresents the nature of the competing tax proposals. A few facts to consider:

    Higher taxes for the truly wealthy may have sentimental and political appeal, but they have few practical effects. For example, the CBO estimated the annual taxes to be gained from the Buffet Rule. The resulting number was between ¼ and ½ of 1% of the annual deficit - hardly enough to matter.

    Increased tax revenue from Obama’s proposals will come primarily from those making less than $1million, most of whom live in high cost urban areas. This then is hardly a question of “the rich giving back to a system that has brought them unimaginable wealth.”

    The problem is one of growth, or more precisely, lack of growth. Economic problems will be solved by growth oriented economic policies, not by symbolic changes in social policies that lack a firm economic foundation to support them

      CommentedMark Pitts

      The amount to gained from the Buffet rule is about 4% of the deficit, but only about 0.4% of the debt or of GDP (please excuse my typo in the original post). This is hardly going to change anything for the middle class. It may get votes, but it changes nothing. Only resumed economic growth will change the trajectory of the middle class.

      CommentedMichael Nikolaou

      I am questioning your assertion that "increased tax revenue will have few practical effects".

      The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center
      (http://www.npr.org/2012/04/11/150406660/what-would-the-buffett-rule-mean-for-the-u-s-economy)
      estimates that "217,000 households would be subject to the Buffett rule. While the actual amount would vary enormously from person to person, those households would pay an additional $190,000 in taxes, on average".

      This is a total of about $42 billion. While this amount is unquestionably small - compared to a $1000 billion deficit - and will not wipe out the entire deficit in a single stroke,
      it will have a discernible effect on the deficit, which is an order of magnitude higher than your 0.25-0.5% estimate.

  5. CommentedTim Chambers

    I read Schumpeter's book thirty some odd years ago, and as I remember it, he defined creative destruction as the sloughing off, onto other countries, of production that can no longer be done at favorable ROI, as happened with consumer electronics in the 1960s, and garment work in the 1980s. It had nothing to do with the present day problem of companies seeking absolute advantage in labor costs through off-shoring.

    New investment would, in theory, take the place of moribund industries and labor would, supposedly, be retrained for better jobs. Schumpeter's theory may have been true at the time he wrote his book, but it hasn't been operable for the past several years, since massive amounts of work was needlessly outsourced overseas in pursuit of ever increasing profits, and production workers replaced by robots on the factory floor.

    One of the reasons for lack of demand is that robots don't make good consumers of anything but lubricant. Just try to build a consumer economy of that! I dare you!

    http://bonalibro.us

  6. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The choice is designed to be narrow. The American problem is of inequality. The evidence is clear: great inequality is inefficient. America has redistributed wealth in the wrong direction.

  7. CommentedJohn A Werneken

    Suppose we stand this on its head and continue the Bush tax rates, or better, limit all deductions on a progressive basis beginning at the AVERAGE income and reaching ZERO at $250,000.00, with a flat rate income tax; repeal the non-entitlement spending cuts but go take the entitlement cuts, and take them much farther: FUND retirement by a combination of "Retirement Savings Accounts" with tax privileges, increasing the retirement age gradually but over no more than 10 years to 70, fixing the COLA adjustments; limit Medicare and Medicaid to current levels plus a COLA no larger than the rate of inflation; require all additional entitlement spending to either cease or be VAT funded.

    SURE we get a recession. We might also get a stable currency, liquidation of debt overhang, and a restoration of growth.

    My own income is closer to a full time minimum wage than any other broadly grasped number, but those are the policies I favor. To hell with equity, lets have progress and opportunity.

  8. CommentedRobert Winter

    It is always interesting to read a carefully balanced and thoughtful analysis of the constraints upon the candidates and the issues they should be confronting. The author states "This is not really an election about such hotly-debated issues as outsourcing, tax increases versus entitlement reforms, government control of production versus unfettered private sector activity, or job creators versus free riders. It is much more about the accompanying concepts of social fairness, entitlement, equality and, yes, standards of behavior for a rich and civilized society.

    CommentsThis is an election about social responsibility – a society’s obligation to support those who are struggling, through no fault of their own, to find jobs and make ends meet."

    The author presumably having had months to consider the views of the candidates, it would have been of interest to get his perspective upon how the candidates are approaching the issues he sees as central. And, whether he sees any differences in their approach worth commenting upon.

      CommentedSid Knight

      Hey, c'mon. Take what you can get. This is pretty good coming from Wall Street.

  9. CommentedLuke Ho-Hyung Lee

    Unfortunately, without being aware of it, we have developed numerous “job-killing machines” in the real market (or supply chain process) through the use of IT and networking technology over the last 20 to 30 years of the Modern Information Age. In this situation, structurally, the market as a whole cannot self-generate enough businesses and jobs to keep consumer spending at the desired level, no matter how powerful expansionary or stimulus economic policies are adopted.

    Please see: “Job-Killing Machines in the Modern Information Age” http://savingtheworldeconomy.blogspot.com/2012/07/job-killing-machines-in-modern.html

    I believe our leaders and economic experts should consider this very seriously in their ruminations about the economy.

      CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

      The ability of markets to self-generate enough employment opportunities that can take care of the destruction of jobs that stem from innovation in the IT and networking technology gets tested through one single metric, which is GDP growth; an overall growth that is indifferent to the current spate of activities in the IT sector plays truant to the theory of creative destruction, in which case destruction must balance out. Unfortunately this is never a measured and controlled activity and we have a phase lag and the extent of the time gap cannot be estimated in advance as innovation and its disruptive habits are never predicated by firm evidence. It is therefore important to supplement through the machinery of government spending, a job creation process that acts as a catalyst or a complementary function; the reluctance of the polity to accept this as an efficient denouement is another question.

      Procyon Mukherjee

      Portrait of Ryan Shyu

      CommentedRyan Shyu

      There is an important distinction between unemployment as a result of inadequate economic stimulus, and the so-called "job-killing machines" you mention.

      Economic growth has always been predicated on technological advances, and technological advances inevitably render sectors of the economy outdated. This process does imply a temporary loss of jobs, but in the long run consumers benefit from lower prices and the labor force can flow into more productive fields. This is the "creative destruction" championed by Schumpeter as a defining characteristic of capitalism.

      On the other hand, inadequate economic stimulus is a pure loss in the sense that our economy is currently exhibiting a shortfall of demand--the ongoing banking-sector and household deleveraging mentioned by El-Erian are two causes of this. In this situation expansionary policies can provide an unambiguous boost to the economy--there is no broader purpose to the jobs lost from a too-weak stimulus.

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