Un almuerzo gratis para los Estados Unidos

BERKELEY – Durante las reuniones del Fondo Monetario Internacional de este año, al ex secretario del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos, Lawrence Summers, se le oyó decir una ocurrencia genial: decía que los gobiernos quieren curarle un tobillo roto a un paciente cuyo problema es que le están fallando los órganos. La crítica de Summers apuntaba a la preocupación de Europa por un problema, el de Grecia, que es secundario comparado con otros desequilibrios que son mucho peores (los que hay entre el norte y el sur de la Unión Europea, y entre los acreedores de bancos imprudentes y los gobiernos que no impusieron regulaciones adecuadas) y que se agravan con el correr de los días.

Pero del otro lado del Atlántico, los estadounidenses también deberían darse por aludidos. Esa misma metáfora le hubiera servido a Summers para criticar a los Estados Unidos, donde la preocupación permanente por los dilemas de la financiación a largo plazo de la seguridad social ahoga todo intento de enfrentar la crisis macroeconómica y de desempleo que aqueja al país.

En la actualidad, los Estados Unidos pueden emitir deuda a 30 años a una tasa real (ajustada según la inflación) del 1% anual. Supongamos que en los próximos dos años el país pidiera prestado medio billón de dólares más y gastara esa cifra en infraestructura, incluso en forma improductiva, en proyectos cuya tasa de retorno social sea un insignificante 25% anual. Supongamos que (tal como parece ser) el multiplicador keynesiano simple del gasto público para este desembolso fuera igual a dos.

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