Tuesday, October 21, 2014
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Úspory a dluhový realismus

CAMBRIDGE – Mnohé, ne-li všechny nejnaléhavější makroekonomické problémy světa se váží k obřímu převisu dluhu všech forem. V Evropě hrozí, že toxická kombinace veřejného, bankovního a externího dluhu na periferii rozklíží eurozónu. Na druhé straně Atlantiku zablokovaná situace mezi demokraty, hnutím Tea Party a republikány ze staré školy vyvolává mimořádnou nejistotu, jak Spojené státy v dlouhodobém výhledu zacelí svůj vládní deficit ve výši 8 % HDP. Japonsko přitom hospodaří s rozpočtovým schodkem ve výši 10 % HDP a navíc se sílící kohorty nových penzistů obracejí od nákupů japonských dluhopisů k jejich prodejům.

Pomineme-li projevy nervozity, co by vlády měly dělat? Jedním extrémem je zjednodušující keynesiánská léčba, která předpokládá, že když je ekonomika v hluboké recesi, vládní schodky nevadí, ba prý čím jsou větší, tím lépe. Opačným extrémem jsou absolutisté dluhových stropů, kteří chtějí, aby vlády začaly rozpočty vyrovnávat hned zítra (ne-li včera). Oba přístupy jsou nebezpečně povrchní.

Absolutisté dluhového stropu obrovsky podceňují rozsáhlé korekční náklady související s dobrovolně přijatou „náhlou brzdou“ dluhového financování. Právě tyto náklady jsou příčinou, proč země bez peněz, jako Řecko, čelí rozsáhlým sociálním a ekonomickým přesunům, jakmile finanční trhy ztratí důvěru a kapitálové toky znenadání vyschnou.

Samozřejmě, tvrzení, že vlády by měly vyrovnat svůj rozpočet tak jako my všichni ostatní, má jistou přitažlivou logiku; tak snadné to ale bohužel není. Vlády obvykle mají bezpočet průběžných výdajových závazků ve vztahu k základním službám, jako je národní obrana, infrastrukturní projekty, školství a zdravotnictví, o penzistech ani nemluvě. Žádná vláda se těchto povinností nemůže přes noc jen tak zbavit.

Když se americký prezident Ronald Reagan ujal 20. ledna 1981 úřadu, se zpětnou platností zrušil všechny nabídky na zaměstnání ve státní správě, jež vláda prodloužila během dvou a půl měsíce od voleb po inauguraci. Signál, že má v úmyslu zpomalit vládní výdaje, byl silný, avšak bezprostřední účinek na rozpočet byl zanedbatelný. Ovšemže, vláda může rozpočtovou trhlinu zaplnit také zvýšením daní, ale jakýkoli náhlý posun může výrazně zesílit pokřivení, jež daně způsobují.

Jestliže absolutisté dluhového stropu jsou naivní, platí pro zjednodušující keynesiánce totéž. Vleklou nezaměstnanost po finanční krizi považují za pádné odůvodnění mnohem agresivnější fiskální expanze, a to i v zemích, které už hospodaří s rozsáhlými schodky, jako třeba USA a Velká Británie. Ti, kdo s nimi nesouhlasí, jsou označováni za příznivce „úspor“ v době, kdy mimořádně nízké úrokové sazby znamenají, že si vlády mohou půjčovat téměř zadarmo.

Jenže kdo se tu ukazuje jako naivní? Je zcela správné tvrdit, že vlády by se měly snažit vyrovnávat své rozpočty v souladu s hospodářským cyklem, tedy hospodařit s přebytky během konjunktur a se schodky, kdykoli ekonomická aktivita ochabne. Je ale chybou myslet si, že rozsáhlá akumulace dluhu nic nestojí.

V sérii vědeckých pojednání jsme společně s Carmen Reinhartovou – a naposledy ve spolupráci s Vincentem Reinhartem („Debt Overhangs: Past and Present“ čili „Dluhové převisy: minulé a současné“) – zjistili, že velmi vysoké hladiny dluhu dosahující 90 % HDP jsou dlouhodobou vleklou brzdou hospodářského růstu, která často působí dvě desítky let nebo i déle. Kumulativní cena může být ohromující. V období od roku 1800 průměrná epizoda vysokého zadlužení trvala 23 let a provázelo ji tempo růstu o víc než procentní bod nižší oproti typickým obdobím nižších hladin zadlužení. To znamená, že po čtvrtstoletí vysokého dluhu může být příjem o 25 % nižší, než by byl při normálních tempech růstu.

Jistěže, mezi dluhem a růstem je obousměrná vazba, avšak běžné recese trvají jen rok a dvacetileté období malátnosti vysvětlit nedokážou. Růstová brzda vychází spíš z toho, že vláda nakonec musí zvýšit daně, a dále z nižších investičních výdajů. Takže, ano, vládní výdaje zajišťují krátkodobé povzbuzení, ale jde tu o kompromis s dlouhodobým vleklým poklesem.

K vážnému zamyšlení nutí postřeh, že téměř polovina epizod vysokého dluhu od roku 1800 se váže k nízkým či normálním reálným (inflačně očištěným) úrokovým sazbám. Charakteristický je nízký růst a nízké úrokové sazby v Japonsku posledních dvou desítek let. Velké dluhové břemeno navíc znamená riziko, že se v budoucnu zvýší globální úrokové sazby, a to i bez zhroucení ve stylu Řecka. To platí obzvlášť dnes, kdy po vytrvalém masivním „kvantitativním uvolňování“ ze strany hlavních centrálních bank mnohé vlády výjimečně zkrátily strukturu splatnosti svého dluhu. Hrozím jim tudíž riziko, že vzestup úrokových sazeb by se relativně rychle promítl do vyšších výpůjčních nákladů.

Vzhledem k tomu, že mnohé dnešní vyspělé ekonomiky se více či méně blíží k hladině 90 % HDP, která volně vymezuje období vysokého zadlužení, expanze dnešních, už teď rozsáhlých schodků není strategie, která nic nestojí, jak tvrdí zjednodušující keynesiánci, ale riskantní návrh. V nadcházejících měsících se zaměřím na související problémy vysokého soukromého dluhu a externích dluhů a vrátím se rovněž k tématu, proč nadešel čas, kdy vyšší inflace není až tak naivní. Voliči a politici se především musí mít na pozoru před svůdně jednoduchými přístupy k dnešním dluhovým problémům.

Z angličtiny přeložil David Daduč

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  1. CommentedRobert Wolff

    We must precisely distinguish between debt due to debt leveraging by productive businesses and consumer debt. The cause of consumer debt is that wages are too low to buy the results of production, creating a situation in which [excess] profits beyond what businesses reinvest to increase production (which creates growth) are necessarily lent to consumers to so they may buy the total results of production.

    Such consumer loans, though they are funded by what businesses call profits, are really nothing more than funds held back from wages then loaned to consumers to buy excess production to maintain the condition wherein supply equals demand.

    The huge accumulation of consumer debt means that excess profits have been accumulating in large amounts, and been lent to consumers over a very long time to buy excess production beyond what their wages can afford.

    Keynesian redistribution can solve this problem after the fact, but we can now see the political crisis it creates. The spats over redistribution of wealth have now created a political crisis in Europe and America.

    Better yet would that the watchman had cried out long before the accumulation of excess profits lent out as consumer debt got so large that we incur a political crisis necessating huge redistributions of wealth that make Keynesian policies appear radical.

    A stitch in time saves nine.

      CommentedRobert Wolff

      Debt due to debt leveraging is performed to increase corporate profits at the expense of lowering the profit margin (ROI). The macro effect if all corporations do this is that it is the gross reduction in profit margin.

      The short term effect of debt leveraging is that it increases profits for those that get in on the beginning of the trend but the long term effect is that it drives up the risk to reward ratio of investment.

      Eventually, the risk of investment drives up the cost of capital, which drives down ROI that is already marginal, and the capitalist system collapses.

  2. CommentedRalph Musgrave

    Rogoff is totally clueless. First, he doesn’t get the point (made by Keynes and Milton Friedman) that it is totally unnecessary to run into debt in order to bring stimulus. That is, a deficit can accumulate as monetary base instead of debt if need be.

    Next, he claims that “governments should aim only to balance their budgets over the business cycle..” Complete nonsense: they never have done. Why doesn’t he look at the FACTS?

    I could go on.

    I don’t blame those Harvard economics students for walking out of their lectures. They should have walked out of Harvard university altogether.

      Commentedpeter fairley

      Rogoff only errs on Keynes in not being more emphatic that govt's have failed to heed Keynes' warning 'that budget deficits in boom times worsens the business cycle'.
      I respect Rogoff but wish he would answer Shiller at Yale in his critique of the 90% debt to GDP measure. Professors should not get paid just to talk to themselves and us amateurs.

  3. CommentedMichel Brouwers

    Thanks for this interesting article.

    I wonder whether the following...

    "The average high-debt episodes since 1800 last 23 years and are associated with a growth rate more than one percentage point below the rate typical for periods of lower debt levels."

    ... must also hold true in the opposite direction, i.e. how much extra growth was created due to leveraging? And what would be the net effect of both over time?

  4. CommentedMike Muller

    What? You start the paragraph saying that high debt may not be related to high interest rates and then you go on to say beware of the risk of high interest rates! And you connect this contradiction with "Moreover" as if the negation of the former followed from the former. Please remain sober. :-)

  5. CommentedThomas Lesinski

    See Matt Yglesias' critique of this interpretation of the historical evidence:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/06/02/kenneth_rogoff_s_confused_correlation_mongering.html

    Is it that excessive debt weighs on growth, or is it that governments hit by recessions, unable or unwilling to stimulate their economy cannot grow their tax base enough to pay down their debts ?

  6. CommentedJan Smith

    I've learned a great deal from Rogoff and Reinhardt, and from Professor Rogoff's many fine columns. And yet I am persuaded this time really is different.

    For the past 30 years, in spite of fundamental innovation in a wide range of capital and consumer goods, total American debt--private and public--has been accelerating while income growth has barely kept up with the previous century's average.

    That 30-year-old road is now closed.

    If there is anything in the technological pipeline that might replace the microelectronic revolution, no one can see it.

    But the enormous and prolonged Malthusian shock, starting in 1979, precipitated by the fall of communism but rooted in the demographic transition, still is working its way through the world economy. Old Malthus is coming home, and neither liquidity nor public debt can stop him.

    So within a few years, it will be evident even to the immortal Dr Pangloss that the USA must choose between becoming another Germany or another Greece. That is to say, either the Americans will tighten their own belt or others will do it for them.

    How tight, and for how long? Please, don't even ask.













      Commentedjimmy rousseau

      coming down the pipeline is the economic battle to fight climate change. This will rival WWII in economic impact and it cannot be averted.

  7. CommentedJoel Rosenblum

    I'm not an economist and I haven't read Prof. Rogoff's book so prudence should dictate that I keep my mouth shut, BUT... :-)
    It seems to me that in this essay he seems to aggregate the economic effects of all debt "overhangs" without regard to the underlying causes. As if a country doesn't balance it's spending over the business cycle (i.e. it spends too much and refuses to tax itself) is morally or economically equivalent to one which is bailing itself out of a financial crisis.
    He cites Japan as the examplar, as if Japan had merely overly stimulated in an inventory-cycle recession. But my recollection is that Japan had the mother of all financial crises. Would their GDP really be 25% higher now had the government let the financial system collapse?
    Is a financial crisis different from a normal business-cycle recession? Is a tornado qualitatively the same as a thunderstorm, just larger?

  8. CommentedHarlan Green

    There is a way out of the debt mess...see my Huff Post column: "What Happened to the Bush Tax Cuts?"...http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harlan-green/bush-tax-cuts_b_1567695.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

  9. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    First, my view is that the US is already half way to where it should go. My look at the CBO 10-year projection is that the debt-GDP ratio starts to decline by 2014 if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to lapse and legislated health care savings are actually realized through policy implementation.

    Second, state and local government spending is down and so overall total government spending in the US is down. Now that it is lean, possibly government should be made meaner?

    Third, all the job growth in the Obama era has been private sector job growth. This is economically tested, economically useful job growth. The overall job foundation of the US is becoming more solid, more productive.

    Fourth, the missing piece is public infrastructure spending. When government borrows a dollar to build a dollar of public assets, the impact is quite different than spending on public consumption. A dollar of public assets will generate increased income in the future (and if doesn't it hasn't met the definition of "asset"). So a dollar of debt to build a dollar of assets is not such a scary thing.

    The US president who puts the pieces together is going to do quite well on the upside.

  10. CommentedDave Thomas

    Why not means test social security and medicare immediately.
    Why not increase the co-pays for Medicare immediately.
    Why not cut marginal tax rates across the board for everyone so that the economy will expand and people will be working at jobs and paying taxes instead of not working and adding to the annual deficit by relying on government programs?

  11. CommentedRobert Guy Danon




    Authorities have three choices:

    1- Go through many years of austerity and or growth enhancing policies to reduce both deficits and debt to sustainable levels a very long process of perseverence.

    2-Central banks abandon their narrow mindedness and allow inflationary EXPECTATIONS (it is this variable expectations, that is important to trigger demand side incentives)

    3-Even more importantly design a process to redistribute wealth to households by increasing motgage debt forgiveness and thus wealth, allowing for increased final demand as net worth and prosperity values rise.

    In summary, it is a function of transfering wealth from creditors to debtors. If this process is not accelerated then it will be imposed by market forces and or political and ultimately social repercussions. This effectively, is what is currently happening in Greece.

    It goes without saying that a combination of all is also another desirable mix.

  12. CommentedMike Jake

    Who are these "simplistic Keynesians", Kenneth? Name some names so we can see if their positions actually match this caricature.

    Or are you just trying to position yourself in the sensible center?

  13. Commentedsrinivasan gopalan

    Prof.Rogoff hits the nail on the head when he succinctly put it that 'it is wrong to think that massive accumulation of debt is a free lunch'. Living on borrowed money is the bane of modern society--whether it is by individual or by sovereign governments, though the latter cannot escape its hold as its agenda is wider and ineluctable. Leaving aside hard economics that is readily used by politicians swearing faith either in Keynesian pump-priming or in fiscal fundamentalism, the fact remains that borrowing binges by governments without thought to the long-term repercussions would eventually make the zero-interest western countries to live with exorbitant ones if they do not in the meanwhile mend their ways and sacrifice short-term enjoyment to long-lasting happiness in the future. But the politicians without any understanding of the past or any clue to the future would not be the ideal choice to weather the crisis without astute advice from economists of repute. Debt by any way is a surefire road to perdition and it is wiser to contract debt that could be discharged in one's life-time .This is applicable to nations as it is to individuals. Any one interested in the common good of humanity would definitely be with the learned Prof.Rogooff in decrying debt with its manifest wart and all. Emerging economies like India should benefit by salutary counsel from evolved economists who speak for the summum bonum of all and not to this or that country.
    G.Srinivasan

  14. CommentedHamid Rizvi

    Alright, so in this edition of your admonitions and over analysis has told us nothing except what we should not do. I do appreciate the fact that you conclude by saying there is more to come. I, await with bated breath in the hope you might then tell us what we indeed should be doing.

  15. CommentedDavid Doney

    We can walk and chew gum at the same time, with short-term stimulus, long-term austerity, structural reform, and mortgage write-downs. Some examples:

    Short-term stimulus: Infrastructure, forgive the debts of doctors and nurses past and future that stay in the profession for 10 years, write-down mortgage debts for those significantly underwater. Payroll tax cuts.

    Long-term austerity: Raise the retirement age, reduce cost of living adjustments in pension programs, as progressively as possible. Phase out the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy first and everyone else over 5 years. Raise the healthcare premiums for the obese.

    Structural reform: Prohibit offshoring to low-wage countries, to offset our $650 billion goods trade deficit that has killed our jobs engine. Take high school dropouts and draft them into a military-style high school completion program. Everybody graduates.

    All of the above, not "this or that" which is a false choice.

    We are in this mess due to too much debt; we have too much private debt due to offshoring and a dead jobs engine; we have too much public debt because we have too much private debt.

    Find the causes...fix the problems.

  16. Portrait of Michael Heller

    CommentedMichael Heller

    Kenneth Rogoff:

    I suppose the signal Ronald Reagan sent out in 1981 is similar to the one now advocated by people who favour backloading commitments to reduce government spending. Debt is the root problem. I’m persuaded by your arguments which fairly represent the moderate centre ground today. Corrective strategy can begin with acceptance of the need for backloading and also inflation, and with rejection of the simplistic extremes you have outlined.

    It seems, however, that the middle ground is actually institutional in fundamental ways, and this dimension gets insufficient attention. Institutional reform is not a luxury to be postponed until better economic times. Nor, in Europe, does it necessarily require a utopian level of political union. Governments have urgently to make formal institutional commitments without U-turns: introducing the permanent interventions rather than the temporary interventions advocated by simplistic Keynesians; simple decisive legislative changes; and predictive financial market regulation in one or another form, so that markets will believe governments and so that pressured incentives for states to reform are maintained.

    The logjam in Europe is that Germany will understandably not consider temporary interventions or eurobonds and assorted rescue measures that could cost it dearly until there has been the needed European treaty change and until individual countries have used the short window of opportunity to reform their national institutional rules and shown reasonably credible intent regarding labour laws, privatization, and fiscal and monetary rules. A humane and balanced approach to writing down debt can start as soon as the rules are agreed on. They are on the table already. Certain countries and highly vocal and articulate leftwing economists are recklessly blocking sensible agreement and implicitly giving encouragement to debtor countries to “call the bluff” of creditor countries.

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