Los moradores del precipicio fiscal estadounidense

WASHINGTON, DC. – A principios de 2012, el presidente de la Reserva Federal, Ben Bernanke, usó el término «precipicio fiscal» para captar la atención de los legisladores y del público en general. El punto que Bernanke buscaba transmitir es que los estadounidenses deberían preocuparse por la combinación de aumentos en los impuestos federales y recortes en el gasto, cuyo inicio está programado para fines de este año.

Pero no existe un «precipicio» tal que, si alguien lo sobrepasara, caería rápido, aterrizaría sobre algo duro y no se podría levantar por un largo tiempo. En la economía estadounidense moderna los cambios programados son algo más parecido a una «pendiente» fiscal –esto significa que el efecto total de los aumentos impositivos no se sentiría inmediatamente (lleva tiempo ajustar las retenciones sobre los ingresos), mientras que los recortes en el gasto también se implementarán en etapas (el gobierno tiene una cierta discrecionalidad sobre su implementación). Esta pendiente ofrece al presidente Barack Obama una verdadera oportunidad para llevar nuevamente la base de ingresos del gobierno federal a sus valores de mediados de la década de 1990.

Las palabras utilizadas para describir la situación fiscal estadounidense son importantes, dada la histeria incitada durante los últimos meses, en especial por quienes desean implementar grandes recortes sobre los dos principales programas de asistencia: la Seguridad Social y Medicare. Según su lógica, si estamos por despeñarnos debemos tomar medidas extremas. Y limitar las pensiones y el cuidado de la salud de los ancianos ciertamente puede considerarse extremo –además de completamente inapropiado e innecesario.

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