Lecciones del abismo fiscal

CAMBRIDGE – Una de las muchas cosas que aprendí de Milton Friedman es que el verdadero costo del Estado es el gasto público, no los impuestos. Dicho de otro modo, el gasto público se financia con impuestos actuales o con deuda, y el endeudamiento equivale a impuestos futuros, cuyo efecto sobre el desempeño económico es casi el mismo que el de los impuestos actuales.

Este razonamiento se puede aplicar al insostenible déficit fiscal de los Estados Unidos. Como es bien sabido, eliminarlo implica reducir el gasto o aumentar los impuestos.

El punto de vista convencional es que una solución razonable y equilibrada incluirá un poco de ambas alternativas. Pero, como diría Friedman, estos dos métodos se deben considerar diametralmente opuestos. Reducir el gasto implica achicar el Estado; aumentar los impuestos implica agrandar el Estado. Por eso, para eliminar el déficit, los partidarios de achicar el Estado (por ejemplo, algunos republicanos) se inclinarán por apelar exclusivamente a la reducción del gasto, mientras que los partidarios de agrandar el Estado (por ejemplo, el presidente Barack Obama y la mayoría de los demócratas) preferirán apelar exclusivamente a aumentos de los impuestos.

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