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36104b0446f86f380ee66827_pa1393c.jpg Paul Lachine

A Cure for Fiscal Failure?

Should more countries create independent fiscal advisory councils to infuse some objectivity into national budget debates? Such councils are hardly a panacea, but for most countries, they would be a helpful step towards correcting a systematic bias towards deficit spending.

CAMBRIDGE – Should more countries create independent fiscal advisory councils to infuse greater objectivity into national budget debates? Jailed swindler Bernie Madoff recently summed up a lot of people’s feelings about fiscal policy, declaring that “the whole government is a Ponzi scheme.”

Perhaps this was just wishful thinking from a man who will die in prison after his own record-breaking $50 billion pyramid scheme collapsed in 2008. Personally, I suspect Madoff’s unenviable place in the record books will be secure for quite a while. Still, with many of the world’s largest governments facing a lethal combination of unsustainable conventional debt, unprecedented old-age pension obligations, and a downshift in growth, one has to wonder what the fiscal plan is.

In a new paper, “A Decade of Debt,” Carmen M. Reinhart and I show that general government debt in the United States, including federal, state, and local debt, has now surpassed the record 120% of GDP reached at the end of World War II.

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  1. op_campanella7_Aurelien MeunierGetty Images_billgatesrichardbransonthumbsup Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

    Abolish the Billionaires?

    Edoardo Campanella

    Even many of the wealthiest Americans would agree that the United States needs to overhaul its tax policies to restore a sense of social justice. But, notes Edoardo Campanella, Future of the World Fellow at IE University's Center for the Governance of Change, such reforms would not be enough to restart the engines of social mobility and promote greater equality of opportunity.

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