Paul Lachine

America’s Three Deficits

The US faces painful choices about how to close its long-run fiscal gap, and a credible plan should be decided now and implemented promptly – but only after the economy has recovered. For the next few years, the priorities of fiscal policy should be jobs, investment, and growth.

BERKELEY – This year began with a series of reports providing tantalizing evidence that economic recovery in the United States is strengthening. The pace of job creation has increased, indicators for manufacturing and services have improved, and consumption spending has been stronger than anticipated. But it is too early to celebrate.

Output growth in the US remains anemic, and the economy continues to face three significant deficits: a jobs deficit, an investment deficit, and a long-run fiscal deficit, none of which is likely to be addressed in an election year.

Although output is now higher than it was in the fourth quarter of 2007, it remains far below what could be produced if labor and capacity were fully utilized. That gap – between actual and potential output – is estimated at more than 7% of GDP (more than $1 trillion).

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