Sunday, August 31, 2014
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La utopía de la recuperación estadounidense

NUEVA YORK – Si bien nadie pone en duda el riesgo de una crisis caótica en la eurozona, en el caso de Estados Unidos la visión predominante es más optimista. En los últimos tres años, hubo consenso en torno de que la economía estadounidense estaba en el umbral de una recuperación sólida y autosostenible, que elevaría el crecimiento otra vez por encima del potencial del país. Pero esta visión resultó errada: el arduo proceso de desapalancamiento de los balances (producto del excesivo endeudamiento privado y su posterior traslado al sector público) implica que, en el mejor de los casos, la senda de recuperación discurrirá muchos años por debajo de la línea de tendencia.

Incluso para este año, la opinión consensuada se equivocó al esperar un retorno a un crecimiento anual del PIB superior al 3% (por encima de la línea de tendencia). Por el contrario, en el primer semestre, la tasa de crecimiento parece encaminada a andar cerca del 1,5% en el mejor de los casos; peor incluso que el lastimoso 1,7% de 2011. Y después de equivocarse con el pronóstico para la primera mitad de 2012, todavía muchos repiten el cuentito de que una combinación de abaratamiento del petróleo, incremento de las ventas de automóviles, revalorización de las propiedades y resurgimiento de la industria fabril estadounidense impulsará el crecimiento en la segunda mitad del año y lo elevará por encima del potencial en 2013.

Pero la realidad es todo lo contrario: hay diversas razones por las que en la segunda mitad de 2012 el crecimiento seguirá desacelerándose y en 2013 se reducirá todavía más, casi hasta llegar al punto muerto. La primera es que el crecimiento del segundo trimestre fue inferior al mediocre 1,8% registrado entre enero y marzo, ya que la creación de empleos (a un promedio de 70.000 por mes) cayó abruptamente.

La segunda razón es que el temor a que la economía estadounidense se esté aproximando a un “abismo fiscal” (cuando de aquí a fin de año se produzcan en forma automática aumentos impositivos y reducciones del gasto público) mantendrá el gasto y el crecimiento deprimidos durante la segunda mitad de 2012. Otro tanto hará la incertidumbre respecto de quién será presidente en 2013; cuáles serán las tasas impositivas y los niveles de gasto público; la amenaza de otro “cierre” del gobierno por la cuestión del límite al endeudamiento; y el riesgo de que vuelva a reducirse la calificación de la deuda soberana, si la parálisis política sigue obstaculizando la adopción de un plan de consolidación fiscal en el mediano plazo. En semejantes condiciones, la mayoría de las empresas y de los consumidores preferirán ser cautos con sus gastos (conservar el valor de opción de la espera), y esto debilitará aun más la economía.

En tercer lugar, si todas las reducciones impositivas y los programas de transferencia que están en vigencia se dejaran vencer sin prorrogar y se implementaran ajustes draconianos, el freno derivado del abismo fiscal restaría al crecimiento en 2013 el equivalente al 4,5% del PIB. Por supuesto que la reducción será mucho menor, porque los aumentos impositivos y los recortes serán mucho más moderados. Pero aun si el abismo fiscal termina siendo apenas un pequeño bache (no más del 0,5% del PIB) y a fin de año tuviéramos un crecimiento anual igual al 1,5% (como parece probable), el freno fiscal bastará para desacelerar la economía a velocidad de punto muerto, con una tasa de crecimiento de apenas el 1%.

En cuarto lugar, el crecimiento del consumo privado en los últimos trimestres no es reflejo de un aumento de los salarios reales (que en realidad, están en baja). Por el contrario, el aumento de la renta disponible (y por consiguiente, del consumo) se sostiene desde el año pasado gracias a otros 1,4 billones de dólares en reducciones impositivas y prórrogas de programas de transferencias, lo que implica otros 1,4 billones de dólares de deuda pública. A diferencia de la eurozona y del Reino Unido, que ya se encaminan a una recaída en la recesión (por las medidas de austeridad fiscal anticipadas), en Estados Unidos se evitó en parte el desapalancamiento de los hogares aumentando el apalancamiento del sector público (es decir, robándole al futuro algo de crecimiento).

A medida que en 2013 los programas de transferencias lleguen a término (sin importar cuán gradualmente ocurra) y no se prorroguen algunas exenciones impositivas, el crecimiento de la renta disponible y del consumo se reducirá. Entonces Estados Unidos enfrentará no solamente los efectos directos del freno fiscal sino también sus efectos indirectos sobre el gasto privado.

En quinto lugar, hay cuatro fuerzas externas que dificultarán todavía más el crecimiento de los Estados Unidos: el agravamiento de la crisis de la eurozona; el aterrizaje, cada vez menos suave, de China; la desaceleración generalizada de las economías de mercado emergentes, debida a factores cíclicos (insuficiente crecimiento en los países avanzados) y a causas estructurales (un modelo de capitalismo de Estado que reduce el potencial de crecimiento); y el riesgo de que en 2013 el petróleo se encarezca, cuando ni las negociaciones ni las sanciones convenzan a Irán de abandonar su programa nuclear.

Las respuestas políticas no alcanzarán para cortar de raíz la brusca detención de la economía estadounidense: incluso si el efecto del freno fiscal sobre el crecimiento fuera moderado, es probable que el dólar estadounidense se fortalezca, a medida que la crisis de la eurozona debilite el euro y reaparezca una aversión a riesgos global. Aunque este año la Reserva Federal de los Estados Unidos aumentará la flexibilización cuantitativa, esto no servirá de nada, porque las tasas de interés a largo plazo ya están en niveles muy bajos, y bajarlas más no estimulará el gasto. De hecho, el canal crediticio está congelado y la velocidad de circulación monetaria colapsó, porque los aumentos de la base monetaria se están acumulando en los bancos en la forma de excedentes de reservas. Además, es improbable que el dólar se debilite mientras otros países también implementan medidas de flexibilización cuantitativa.

Asimismo, lo más probable es que el lastre derivado de una reducción del crecimiento supere la fuerza ascendente que la mayor flexibilización cuantitativa puede ejercer sobre el valor de las acciones; sobre todo si se tiene en cuenta que las cotizaciones hoy no están tan deprimidas como lo estaban en 2009 o 2010. De hecho, la mejora en ganancias y beneficios ya está perdiendo fuerza, a medida que la falta de demanda incide sobre los ingresos brutos y eso se traslada a una reducción de los márgenes netos y la rentabilidad.

Puede incluso ocurrir que sea justamente una corrección importante de las cotizaciones la fuerza que en 2013 empuje la economía estadounidense directamente a la contracción. Y si Estados Unidos (que es todavía la mayor economía del mundo) empieza a estornudar otra vez, el resto del planeta (con su inmunidad debilitada por los malestares de Europa y la desaceleración de los países emergentes) se pescará una neumonía.

Traducción: Esteban Flamini

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  1. CommentedChee-Heong Quah

    This once again shows the failure of government meddling in the affairs of the economy.

    1) The solution is straightforward, abolish the Fed, repeg the dollar to gold. Get rid the Fed from money creation.

    2) Reduce the size of government to roughly 10% of GDP.

    The above will let the private markets work efficiently and effectively.

  2. CommentedSandee Roberts

    Yes, we got it wrong and we are still not understanding how to fix this crisis. Our society's structure needs to change and this crisis is actually going to help us discover the who, what and why of the problem. It is NOT a financial crisis! This crisis is ALL about US!

    Question: How will our children survive the crisis when there is no money for their basic necessities? Will they even survive? We have exploited and robbed our very own children of their future! It is already happening with loss of jobs due to school mergers and closures and lawmakers policies on our youth. What future are we providing our children?

    Kansas City School
    http://youtu.be/MsFnHPFJq9g
    Uploaded by CNN on Mar 11, 2010

    Students to Prison Policies
    http://youtu.be/sBg7AqXRwqg
    Published on May 29, 2012

    We need to start working together, restructuring the values on which our society are built. Focusing on a new type of education. We as a people have lost our connection to our true reality, which is very integral and interdependent. Today, it is seen globally, that we are all interdependent and connected and yet we are still trying to operate on an old system of personal concerns and benefits. Our systems must now fit the new model of benefiting others!

    If we unite with each other towards a common goal, we can greatly improve our society quickly, to achieve discounts and mutually beneficial exchange, learning to help each other, instead of paying someone money, etc. Someone will voluntarily take on a children’s club, others will also contribute, and we will be able to live a normal life without money, discounted by the crisis.

    We will feel the need for and the benefits of reciprocity.

    Unity aimed at a common goal has great power to change our future quickly. It doesn't have to turn out bad; The future is in our hands!

      CommentedCarl Roberts

      This is my biggest concern, the lost of our children’s future!" Thanks for the post! Let's change the world!

  3. CommentedRoman Bleifer

    I hesitate to say what they think all economists. But in December 2011 was published forecast for 2012 ( http://crisismir.com/analiticheskie-materialy/ekonomika/54-chto-god-gryadushhij-nam-gotovit-prognoz-na-2012-god-i-ne-tolko.html ). According to this forecast, the epicenter of the global crisis could move from Europe to the U.S. in late 2012. This prediction was not made by extrapolation of the available economic information, and based on the understanding of the nature of the author of the forecast of the processes that we call the global economic crisis. The dynamics of the events taking place until the forecast corresponds to the views expressed.

  4. CommentedWilliam deB. Mills

    Gianni,

    Well stated. To put it briefly, economics and politics can be structured for capital (profit) or social well-being. In practice, the two are obviously not mutually exclusive, but to the degree that capital accumulation is preferred over creating a good society, then that is exactly what will happen. Over the last decade, Wall St. has become a marvelous machine for short-term capital accumulation (except for those, like Lehman, that Wall St.'s political lackeys decide to sacrifice). The only problem is that society is being sacrificed. Wall St. need not be, but in its hubris has defined itself to be, the enemy of society.
    --William deB. Mills

  5. CommentedGraham Hodgson

    Banks hoard increases in base money because there's nothing else to be done with them. They are just deposits at the Fed and they can only be transferred to others holding deposits there - other banks and government. But Congress won't allow the government to borrow them and won't allow the government to take them through taxation, so they just sit there. Short of the banks using them to buy banknotes and handing these out at the door, there's no way for the general public to get their hands on them.

    Base money is used to settle payments to third parties on behalf of bank account holders, and bank accounts will only increase if people are prepared to take out bank loans. No amount of additional base money is going to change that.

  6. CommentedJohn James

    At the risk of viewing the global macroeconomic environment too simplistically:
    1. It is obvious the world is flush with liquidity
    2. There is a bifurcation in interest rate levels between the West and non- Western nations (adjusted for risk)
    3. The West is in a relative decline in economic valuation and growth
    4. No serious effort is being made or suggestions offered to enfranchise the overwhelming majority of the global population which, ultimately, must be the new consumer base.
    5. We (West) have been in this paradigm shift of economic restructuring for 50 years now with no intelligent recognition concerning the employment/consumption realignment that must take place.
    6. Absent a major intellectual/cultural revision, the global economy will morph into a quasi feudal/neo-facist economic order with global corporations replacing the nation-state as the primary driver of economic/security power.

  7. CommentedAgostinho Vubo Vubo

    Pelo aquilo que se ouve e vive na Europa, não restam dúvidas que os modelos económicos não mentem, há algumas verdades a ter em conta, os ciclos de crises na economia vão sempre existir, quer sejam de curto e longo prazo, tudo não passa em melhorar ou ajustar os modelos económicos, ou seja, todo político, tecnocrata e o visionário, deve engajar-se na busca de teorias alternativas capazes de melhor a eficiência na utilização de recursos escassos para garantir o bem-estar comum. Seria melhor ainda toda sociedade e políticos parar e demandar pelo menos, 60 segundos à Deus para termos a solução dos problemas que nos aflige.
    Agostinho Vubo.

  8. Commentedcaptainjohann Samuhanand

    2012 elections and the necessity for ruling Politicians to have a good stock index will drive this year's economy.American economy sustains on wars in Asian and African continents and so induces them.But it saps the moral values of the American nation itself in the world.Today an American coach wails about a Chinese prodigy in swimming while extolling the achievements of Phelps. The total medals tally in Olympics reflects the economy and physical and mental health of nations and America is slowly shrinking.

  9. CommentedStephen Pain

    There is an offshore economy which amounts to trillions in loss taxation, organized crime the same, the US sovereign debt of nearly 100 trillion or more - and so many other holes in the notion of an organized, rational, civil, efficient economic system. It is leaky as hell.

    I would much prefer that instead of talking of double-dip recessions - one of the most ridiculous terms ever - if it were scoops of icecream fine - but two dips - is a euphemism for a depression.

  10. CommentedWilliam deB. Mills

    While Roubini’s review of U.S. economic prospects indeed sounds like “gloom and doom,” it hardly touches the seriousness of reality because it omits the class war by the rich [http://shadowedforest.blogspot.com/p/class-war.html] that is warping our marvelous economic machine, replacing long-term growth with short-term financial manipulations.

    The campaign by the super-rich to profit by stealing from the poor and using the funds for financial manipulations (rather than investment in productive enterprises) is the worst of all possible worlds for the long-term economic health of the country. Wisconsin Governor Walker’s union-busting campaign and the Supreme Court’s replacement of “one man, one vote” with “one dollar, one vote” are symptomatic. Whatever his sins, at least Stalin did concentrate funds on industrial growth; Wall St. today is worse – using the funds it takes from society for leveraged gambling that destroys lives quite as effectively as Stalin did but without building anything in return. The Obama Administration has wasted four years carefully refusing to face the need to punish financial crime, so the behavior that caused the Financial Crisis of 2008 remains unchanged, as illustrated by the libor scandal and mess at Morgan. As for the millions who lost jobs and homes, they are being defined as “superfluous,” [http://shadowedforest.blogspot.com/2012/07/superfluous-people.html] like the Neo-Liberal victims of Pinochet and the Argentine junta’s “dirty war.”

    In the U.S., as Roubini says, we do indeed face a major economic challenge, but that challenge is not the cause of our troubles; it is the result. The cause, i.e., the real challenge facing the U.S., is socio-political: the social contract we call the New Deal essentially allowed the super-rich to remain super-rich as long as they accepted sufficient controls (regulation) so that the pie would continue to grow and the rest of society would also get steadily larger pieces. The class war is the decision by the super-rich over the last generation to break that agreement and ignore the size of the pie (long-term economic growth) in order to focus on increasing the size of their pieces by seizing slices from the vastly smaller but more numerous pieces in the hands of everyone else (short-term consumption of the seed corn). Roubini’s enumeration of our economic problems focuses only on second-order effects caused by our first-order socio-political challenge: we are under attack by the super-rich.
    --William deB. Mills

  11. CommentedGianni Conti

    As Roubini explains, legislations and regulations, and I might add, anything we do on the surface, will fail to save us from the coming collapse. People and their values are what stand behind the global economy. We need to change these values. Currently the respected value is to amass the largest quantity of cash and property. Since society respects this above all, it leads to crises. All the world leaders, and for that matter, people in general, need to sit at a roundtable as one family and realize that they have become completely interconnected and interdependent, in terms of their markets, all the societies being completely connected via social networks and other technologies, just like cells in one body. Today all people have a common interest in the well being of every one else. We need to reach this sensation that all on this tiny planet are facing serious troubles and we are all in one boat. From this, we will be able to solve the world's problems like a family decided where its finite resources are needed most, at the moment. Grandpa needs medicine, ok, it's a priority; baby needs food, etc. We never wised for this scenario to come to pass, any more than, say Germany ever desired to give its neighbors and competitors multi-billion dollar presents, but we are living in a new world, unique in all of history.

      CommentedEdward Ponderer

      Sadly, Prof. Roubini while Prof. Roubini successfully analyzed the present crisis, he doesn't seem to account for the fact that the problems do not merely threaten the economy. It threatens the very model of economics itself -- we are beginning to run blind here.

      In combination with the effects of the generally limitation of a global economic equation of limited resources and ever-tightening coupling constants of interdependence between national economies, and between economy and environment, and growing ego. Ego that has grown so much, that many in influential positions know how to manipulate the very system that based itself upon rigid assumptions of what that ego would do. That is, the hunter has become the hunted -- and very successfully, catastrophically, hunted. And, for example, go predict a 9-11 or other ego-chaotic effects multiplied by a suicide mentality and the technology to back it up.

      In short, Gianni Conti's suggestion to go for one-on-one round tables, developing a family-like psychology, and otherwise aim towards a mutual-responsibility based economy rather than a greed based one, seems the only way to restore our sight and save, hopefully once more prosper ourselves.

  12. CommentedMichael Muoio

    Taxes, taxes, taxes! We all hate them but we sure don’t mind talking about them.

    There is one incredible fact regarding taxation that seems to be lost in the current dialog and here it is:

    Our current federal income tax has not been as low as today dating all the way back to 1929 when the top marginal rate was 24%.

    With the exception of the 5 years of tax relief following the last financial crisis in 1987, we have never been as free of tax as we are today.

    Indeed, we are so free of tax that our Republic is going broke.

    We spend $3.5 Trillion per year and we collect $2.5 Trillion.

    What is truly diabolical is the fact that many politicians want to reduce taxes another $1 Trillion. And they want to pay for it by reducing Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Education and by selling public assets like roads, bridges, parks, municipal water and utility systems.

    The best years that our Republic ever had were when our taxes were at they’re highest in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, the profligate 1920’s with the marginal tax rate of 25% caused the Depression.

    There are many qualifications for Congress, but clearly sanity is not one of them.

  13. CommentedSteven Cox

    It seems as if everyone is so concerned with this quarter's, or next quarter's results. This should not be the concern. There are structural problems in the US economy and these must be addressed - even if it means a contraction.

    1. A national consumption tax is needed.
    2. Health care costs can and should be addressed. In some cases 1/3 of a doctors income goes to malpractice insurance. Tort reform must be enacted. Doctors are overpaid. One simple way of dealing with this is no one should see a doctor until they have first seen a nurse. Some doctors estimate 90% of their visits are issues a nurse practitioner could deal with. Drastic end of life care costs have to be addressed. It should be possible to cut 1/3 of public health care costs down, and provide the same service.
    3. End the war on drugs. It is crazy prison costs are higher than education costs in some States.
    4. Increase taxes on the middle class, and the poor. The middle class, ie those making $50-$200,000 must pay more, and the poor have to pay something. Everyone has to have some skin in the game.
    5. Address China. Their currency must float...end of story.
    6. Stop going to war.
    7. Pension reform. The US is not immune to the laws of arithmetic. Of 100 people working, only 60 are in the private sector. So, 60 are supporting themselves, plus 40 more. But, add to that previous public sector workers, the pensioned class, probably as much as 30 more, plus another 10 who have never contributed anything. Sixty end up supporting a total of 140. To do that, and not run deficits, average tax rates would have to push about 80%. Obviously, impossible. So, government runs deficits, a policy that has finally caught up to you. Pensions have to kick in when a person hits a certain age, regardless of when they retire, and must be topper uppers to ones own savings, not a lifestyle. In California some public employees get full pensions after 20 years. You can retire in your early 40s and be paid until your 80s!! Does this make any sense? Can you pay someone for 3 years, indexed, on one years work?

    Reforms such as these have to be enacted regardless of the effect on the unemployment rate, etc. This will sort itself out. But, right now the underpinnings of the economy aren't sound. Without strengthening the foundation you can't fix the stuff on the surface.

  14. CommentedBrendan Dornan

    Christina Romer's research shows each 1% increase in tax revenues results in a 3% drop in GDP over the next three years. Europe, particularly the U.K., has tried tax hikes and fake promises of spending cuts. They are not alone, spending across Europe is still increasing, incredibly, but many VAT and income taxes have been levied. Reducing budget deficits on transfer payments and government waste, reduces expectations for further tax hikes, boosting the economy.

  15. CommentedJacob Geller

    "The consensus"? What consensus?

    I look at the last three years of economics punditry and I see lots and lots of disagreement. There has been no consensus.

    Furthermore, to the extent that economists et al *have* agreed on anything, it has generally been that we are almost definitely *not* "on the verge of a robust and self-sustaining recovery." Pessimism has generally been a more common mode than optimism in the last three years of economic forecasting.

  16. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    The US may be in for a period of slow growth, but it probably will not be allowed to outright "stall" by the policy makers; they will patch and patch. I would posit a most likely case of 2-3 percent real growth going forward in the US. The S&P500 companies are world beaters; the US private sector has added about 4.5 million jobs since the downturn and will probably continue to add 1 to 3 million jobs a year. The private sector base gets stronger and stronger.

    The US has been deleveraging its state and local government sector, a source of inefficiency and unproductivity. It will probably slowly start to bring federal revenues and expenses into synch next year.

    The US election is going to decide some things, possibly pretty decisively.

    In a globalized world, a large number of countries will have competitive growth sectors in their economies. The same countries will also have "drag" areas of low growth and low productivity. You will have almost two societies living in one living space.

    A declining median real wage in the US poses many problems but also creates a more competitive overall economy in a relatively low real wage world. If the US wants to increase its median real wage, then it has to start making public investments in infrastructure and improve the outputs from the social investment in education.

    Private investment improves the real wage in the top tier which consist of people who realize the most out of their education assets. To improve the median real wage, the society through its political system must make very broad-based public investments. For now, that public seems to want "my benefits" and vote its resentments.

    The various iterations of the "Me Generations" that have followed the Greatest Generation are probably going to get what they have worked for and what they have voted for. And that will probably be "less." So 2 percent growth it will probably be.

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