Sequester

I’ve mentioned once or twice…OK maybe a few times more how bad an idea it is to cut the Federal budget right now. Oh it can be cut and should, but not now while still climbing out of a recession. I even talked about how much less unemployment we would have right now if we had grown government (like during the Reagan and Bush administrations. There have been few believers. Unfortunate.

But now with sequestration a few days away, somebody is actually getting, and more importantly transmitting, the same message.  Not just anybody, let’s hear it for Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He deems it “significant headwind” From his comments yesterday:

    “The challenge for the Congress and the Administration is to put the federal budget on a sustainable long-run path that promotes economic growth and stability without unnecessarily impeding the current recovery.

 

Significant progress has been made recently toward reducing the federal budget deficit over the next few years. The projections released earlier this month by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicate that, under current law, the federal deficit will narrow from 7 percent of GDP last year to 2-1/2 percent in fiscal year 2015. As a result, the federal debt held by the public (including that held by the Federal Reserve) is projected to remain roughly 75 percent of GDP through much of the current decade.

 

However, a substantial portion of the recent progress in lowering the deficit has been concentrated in near-term budget changes, which, taken together, could create a significant headwind for the economic recovery. The CBO estimates that deficit-reduction policies in current law will slow the pace of real GDP growth by about 1-1/2 percentage points this year, relative to what it would have been otherwise. A significant portion of this effect is related to the automatic spending sequestration that is scheduled to begin on March 1, which, according to the CBO’s estimates, will contribute about 0.6 percentage point to the fiscal drag on economic growth this year. Given the still-moderate underlying pace of economic growth, this additional near-term burden on the recovery is significant. Moreover, besides having adverse effects on jobs and incomes, a slower recovery would lead to less actual deficit reduction in the short run for any given set of fiscal actions.”

 

“To address both the near- and longer-term issues, the Congress and the Administration should consider replacing the sharp, frontloaded spending cuts required by the sequestration with policies that reduce the federal deficit more gradually in the near term but more substantially in the longer run. Such an approach could lessen the near-term fiscal headwinds facing the recovery while more effectively addressing the longer-term imbalances in the federal budget.”

It’s getting less lonely over here.