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Tom Ferguson on the Debt Deal: Debt Ceiling Deal All Cuts No Taxes

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Our favorite astute political observer (and curmudgeon) Tom Ferguson weighs in on the debt deal. The bottom line is that the deflationary impact starts relatively soon, what appears to be $300 billion starting in October.

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70 comments

  1. ArkansasAngie

    What cuts are you speaking about.
    There are no cuts in 2011. Apparently there are a few billion in cuts in 2012. And … as we all know the cuts in the future aren’t cuts that I’d bet on.

    Nope this was theater. The GDP revisions were ignored by the general public for the ceiling noise.

    Washington needs to be thrown out … all of them.

    Lying to the American public again.

    The green spray paint on the economy is showing its true brown color.

    Stop supporting the rhetorical debates between two useless parties in Washington as if they are any more than they are — a crock of oderiferous material

    1. chad

      Exactly right.

      You know, I sort of admired the tea party there for a minute. I knew what they stood for was ridiculous but at least the stood for something. But, at the end of the day, even they folded for nothing but the maintenance of the status quo.

      1. Robespierre

        And you want cuts for the sake of cuts? So if there are no cuts then what? What is it exactly that made you accept cuts with the fervor of a religious fanatic?

        1. Linus Huber

          Cuts are essential. Of course, they can go on and devalue the dollar further and further but the game is very dangerous. Suddenly the rate of interest will shoot up! Then you got a real mess (Italy, Greece).

          1. F. Beard

            Suddenly the rate of interest will shoot up! Linus Huber

            Let it! The US Government has no business borrowing money in the first place. We really should mint up a hundred or so trillion dollar coins to finance the deficit till we need to print up another hundred and so forth.

            Then you got a real mess (Italy, Greece). Linus Huber

            No, because the US is monetarily sovereign as Rodger Malcolm Mitchell tirelessly points out.

          2. Yves Smith Post author

            The US is not Italy or Greece. It controls its own currency.

            Japan is the better comparable, it has had large deficits for over 20 years and has terribly demographics, oh, and only a single A bond rating, and yet it still has super low interest rates.

            And don’t try saying it’s the high Japanese savings rate. It has plunged in the last few years, yet its bond yields have not budged.

          3. slothrop

            @Yves
            Japan is not the comparison. There is no comparison.
            Widen the POV. We are in the middle of the consequences of 30 years of hardcore deficit military Keynesian-whaddever-you-wanna-callit spending which is massively inflationary.
            Why haven’t we felt the inflation that any other country would have felt?
            Reserve currency petro dollar. We have exported it to Latin America, Russia, the Middle East to name a few. That gig is up.
            Americans will soon realize what food and everything else really costs.
            There is no other way out. Obviously they will not let the thing deflate.
            God help us all.

          4. Yves Smith Post author

            Get a grip. The problem is private sector debt, not government debt. That is coming down as households delever. And the debt burden grew not as a result of Keynesianism but the effects of the global financial crisis (a dramatic fall in revenues).

            If the private sector (businesses and households) are saving, the government needs to run a deficit. Otherwise the economy contacts and the debt burden gets WORSE as a percent of GDP. That has happened in every country that has tried this bogus approach (Ireland, Latvia, and Greece are current examples).

          5. slothrop

            @ Yves

            EXCEPT: The multiplier is below ONE. GAME OVER.

            Spare me Ben Bernanke’s academic experiments. Spare us all.

          6. Tao Jonesing

            @slothrop

            We are in the middle of the consequences of 30 years of hardcore deficit military Keynesian-whaddever-you-wanna-callit spending which is massively inflationary.

            Milton Friedman was NOT a Keynesian of any stripe, at has been Friedmanesque Chicago School monetarism driving monetary policy for the last 30 years.

            We really need to be sure to lay blame at the feet of libertarians (actually neoliberals) like Milton Friedman, if only to make sure we aren’t duped into choosing the economics of Friedman’s “libertarian” colleagues of the Austrian School.

          7. Yves Smith Post author

            The multiplier is not below one, the analyses I’ve seen of the 2009 stimulus all found the multiplier was higher than predicted despite the fact it was badly designed, and it was well over one.

            Per Tao Jonesing’s comment, you seem to like to make stuff up out of whole cloth.

          8. Art Nesten

            We really need to end the hysteria. As Nate Silver at the NYTimes have shown, there are no cuts in 2011. Period. There are only $22 billion in cuts in 2012.

            Please get it straight. Read the damn bill if you’re not sure. You’re making yourselves look bad.

        2. spectator

          When and what to cut is a reasonable debate.

          Unfortunately that debate ignores the elephant in the room – the elephantine growth of the financial industry, enabled by monetary handouts and moral hazard. Which dwarfs the fiscal deficit many times over. If this monetary corruption is not stopped somewhere, somehow, it’s game over for the US and the reserve currency – just a matter of when.

          Sad to see so much acrimony on a tiny fraction of the problem. Wall Street is laughing all the way to the central bank.

    2. Art Nesten

      Correct. According to the bill which says that in October they must make recommendations for $1.2 trillion in cuts over the period from 2012-2021. http://rules.house.gov/Media/file/XML_112_1/WD/DEBT_016.XML#toc-HE8F16660AE28473AB044DA5D7D6E479E

      Nowhere does it say the actual spending cuts they must decide on in October must take place in 2011 or 2012. They must happen between 2012 and 2021 with no restrictions on when the cuts are actualized, which means they can theoretically even wait till 2021 to enact the spending cuts.

      Perhaps those who disagree can point to where in the bill it says the cuts must actually be realized in 2011 or 2012.

  2. DF Sayers

    They had to do it now before more people start clamoring about alternatives to raising the ceiling. This way Obama can appear cornered, when in reality he is only doing what he promised the oligarchy already.

  3. Hal (GT)

    It’s all smoke and mirrors. There is nothing of substance here to reduce USA’s risk of future default. Just the opposite really. The spot price of gold is a good tell for that that reality.

    1. duffolonious

      You sure the price of gold isn’t going where it is because we’re going into a possible “‘nother recession”?

      I don’t see what the “risk of future default” is when the 10yr T-note is now going even lower.

      I think you don’t know what you are talking about.

      http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=yield

      Yep lot’s of future default risk there – what do you know that Mr. Market doesn’t know?

        1. Jesse

          About the only thing the MMTers have right is that technically the US never has to default except by choice. It can keep printing dollars and paying its debts in dollars. That is one of the benefits of owning a sovereign currency to go with your sovereign debt.

          But the dollars become devalued nonetheless, even if interest rates do not start soaring. By the time they do, it will be endgame.

          That’s what.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            “But the dollars become devalued nonetheless, even if interest rates do not start soaring.”

            Clearly doesn’t understand monetary operations. Creating dollars (QE etc.) drives interest-rates down. Go look up ‘open market operations’ on Google.

            Get a handle on this stuff before you comment on it, would you?

          2. ggm

            Then raise taxes and soak up those excess dollars. Voila, currency revaluation.

            Clearly there is ample breathing room for increased taxation on top earners and market speculators.

          3. Jim Haygood

            So open market operations drive interest rates down? That is, the more money we print, the cheaper we can borrow what’s already out there?

            Gee, where were you when disgraced Fed chairman Arthur Burns tried this in the 1970s, and only got inflation, runaway interest rates, and runaway gold prices for his efforts?

        2. Because

          For the love of god man, the FED isn’t capping crap. The FED ain’t doing a dang thing. Get over that institution. Between 1950 and 1980 nobody even knew who the “FED” was.

          Rates are low because of deflation fears. US debt owners(mostly American) want the US to borrow more and will lower rates to 0% to do just that LONG TERM.

          If they don’t get their wish, they REALLY will kill the American economy by causing a major inversion.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Are you both sure there isn’t simply a speculative bubble in the Gold market?

        Methinks that the coming deflation might just pop it… Think about it, not only do prices come down generally amidst deflation, but when people see the value of dollars magically rise before their eyes there’s every chance they’ll stop all this Glenn-Beckery and pull back from the gold markets.

        1. Jesse

          It isn’t the Tea Party or the Glenn Beckers that are buying gold. Its all those inconvenient people overseas for the most part.

          Monetary theory said gold would go higher in price as more debt (dollars) was created without underlying increases in value, and so it is.

          There is no point in arguing anymore. If someone cannot spot a ten year trend, then you will just have to wait until the big bang wakes them up, and they join in the panic. And then gold might hit a bubble. But that’s thousands of dollar away.

          1. F. Beard

            Monetary theory said gold would go higher in price as more debt (dollars) was created without underlying increases in value, and so it is. Jesse

            Monetary theory would dictate a general rise in prices so why has gold risen so much more than other commodities?

            Because gold is money? Says who? Some primitives in India and elsewhere?

          2. Philip Pilkington

            Someone is invested in gold… Don’t worry though, you’re right, a price decline is thousands of dollars away. Stick in there — there’s easy $$$ to be made.

            “Monetary theory said gold would go higher in price as more debt (dollars) was created without underlying increases in value, and so it is.”

            You mean monetary economics, right? (Let’s not even get into specifying which monetary economics you’re talking about — I’ll assume QTM). Anyway, QTM also predicts inflation as more dollars are created. Didn’t happen.

            Many central banks are rapidly revising their theories in light of the present QE policies and their implications.

            Gold is in a bubble. Just like many other assets. This bubble will only last as long as there are more investors to pile in and keep the price going up. We’re about to see a massive wipeout of spending power in the economy with the coming cuts (Mosler calls it a ‘dollar crop failure’). This should burst a few of the speculative bubbles pretty damn quick.

            But hang in there… remember… $$$. Lots of $$$.

            “Lot’s of countries who owned their own currencies have defaulted in this manner.”

            You mean the countries tied into foreign exchange pegs? No other country has ever defaulted in a sovereign currency.

          3. F. Beard

            Many central banks are rapidly revising their theories in light of the present QE policies and their implications. Philip P

            Hey Philip, when are you central banker loving economists going to get your theories right? You are making even primitive gold bugs look smart. Shame!

          4. F. Beard

            Sorry PP,
            You know I’m fond of you but some one has to tell you guys before you kill another billion or so of us.

            And now the central banks are buying gold? That is the height of their monetary sophistication?

          5. Philip Pilkington

            I’m wondering if the Chinese central bank’s decision to buy up gold was related to their attempting to scare Bernanke into not doing another QE.

            Sort of a “Look, we’re buying gold and if you don’t stop doing QE we’ll… erm… buy more… and… erm… less t-bills” kind of thing.

            Just speculation, but I might be right.

          6. F. Beard

            “Look, we’re buying gold and if you don’t stop doing QE we’ll… erm… buy more… and… erm… less t-bills” kind of thing. Philip P

            “Oh please, please Chinese! Do not buy up a mostly useless shiny metal. What will we ever do without it? [snicker snicker]“

        2. chris

          How can gold be in a speculative bubble when so few own it (except for central bankers and those races- Indians and Asians-) who do not buy into the worshipfulness of paper backed by a full faith and credit whorish America?

          1. Philip Pilkington

            What are you talking about? I can click a little icon on my desktop, open a Forex trading program and start bidding up the price of gold.

            There’s been a large speculative bubble in gold before:

            http://static.twoday.net/mahalanobis/images/real_gold_price.gif

            Convince yourself of whatever you want. It’s obvious that speculation is driving up gold prices. It’s happened before. And its worse this time around.

      1. Jesse

        It is a soft or de facto default.

        Lot’s of countries who owned their own currencies have defaulted in this manner.

        It is a choice, and also contingent on their ability to force people to accept their currency at prices which they set. If there is a choice in the exogenous price takers the dollar will devalue. And so it is and will continue to do so.

        1. F. Beard

          It is a soft or de facto default. Jesse

          Ah yes, the prevention of price deflation is price inflation?

          But if price inflation is the “soft default”, that could be prevented by putting the banks out of the counterfeiting business at the same time so that the total money supply (base money + credit) remained constant. Then when is the default?

  4. F. Beard

    The great thing about deflation is that it helps those who need the most help – the rich. Nothing like sitting on a pile of cash and watching it grow in value risk-free.

    1. K Ackermann

      Define ‘they’.

      Certainly not the government. It would like inflation, as it is not a creditor but a debtor.

  5. Sauron

    F. Beard…I believe they are actually aiming for deflation for the reason you state.

    That Obama’s throw away comment (from memory) “Is this the deal I wanted–no.” Just seems so Obama…just cede the rhetorical high-ground automatically.

  6. Victor

    Ferguson is right on. Here’s what I wrote on this topic a few days ago: “[Obama's] idea of compromise is to offer more and more until the other side has exactly what it was demanding in the first place. And if they then hesitate (since by now they realize this guy is the perfect mark), he’ll be happy to offer even more than what they originally wanted. His pathetic gaffe, ‘call my bluff,’ says it all. He thinks he’s negotiating while it’s obvious to everyone else that he’s simply being had.”

    I have serious doubts that this really terrible piece of legislation will actually get passed. But assuming it does, what then?

    “After the dust clears we’ll all look around us and wonder what the HELL has been accomplished after all these months of pointless and destructive dickering. For what?”
    http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-waste.html

    1. PQS

      From a summary at FDL: one item that has been accomplished:

      Cuts to Pell Grants and Student Loans.

      Cue sound of yet one more cornerstone of American society crumbling away. Sounds like a jackhammer wielded by Grover Norquist.

        1. ambrit

          Dear Greg;
          I believe cute furry ol Grovers formulation was, “equality of opportunism.”

    2. Jim Haygood

      From today’s NYT article on the budget deal:

      Mr. [Bobby] Schilling (R-IL) whipped out a little chart that showed a reduction in bombers and other weapons programs over recent years. He said the proposed cuts to the military if a new Congressional committee should fail to come up with a deficit reduction plan that passes muster with Congress “really scares me,” he said. “We’re on the fringe right now. We can barely defend ourselves.

      Well, there may be some truth to Mr. Schilling’s claim — one certainly could have gotten the impression on 9/11 that ‘we can barely defend ourselves.’

      But why is that? Maybe because we are defending Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, the UK, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and dozens more equally undeserving places?

      Until the US ‘defense’ [i.e., aggression and global domination] budget is slashed to more like 1% instead of 5% of GDP, there is not the slightest chance of fiscal sustainability or renewed economic growth. ‘Defense’ cuts are the only litmus test you need.

      It’s sad and comical to see soi disant leftists advocating unlimited currency printing to continue funding America’s loss-making military empire. Fiat currency is war finance, pure and simple. It’s LBJ’s ‘guns and butter’ policies all over again. Whereas gold is the money of peace, making it nearly impossible to fund a military empire.

      1. F. Beard

        Whereas gold is the money of peace, making it nearly impossible to fund a military empire. Jim Haygood

        Pure poppy-cock. Nations have attacked each other for ages for their gold.

    3. Art Nesten

      I don’t understand the hysteria. Paul Jay in the video is demonstrably wrong. According to the bill, in October they must make recommendations for $1.2 trillion in cuts over the period from 2012-2021. http://rules.house.gov/Media/file/XML_112_1/WD/DEBT_016.XML#toc-HE8F16660AE28473AB044DA5D7D6E479E

      Nowhere does it say the actual spending cuts they must decide on in October must be realized in 2011 or 2012. They must happen between 2012 and 2021 with no restrictions on when the cuts are actualized, which means they can theoretically even wait till 2021 to enact the spending cuts.

      Perhaps you can point to where in the bill it says the cuts must actually be realized in 2011 or 2012.

  7. KnotRP

    Obama is busy telling the Titantic’s band to play on, in a very loud voice, to calm the passengers, while quietly directing the crew to lock the steerage doors (though he will claim he was forced into this action). He promises the crew that this is a temporary measure, to control the flow (of certain passengers) into the life boats.

    The banker’s president is done.

    1. Jim Haygood

      You talkin’ about One Term Obama?

      His friends call him ‘O.T.’ now.

      More time for golf. Life is good!

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    Not too be too redundant, but as I’ve said here before, the man was hired to be a diversionary and transitional figure: to divert and neutralize popular opposition to Neoliberalism run amok, to make cuts Republicans could not get away with, and to be an interim placeholder until the real Hard Guys come back to power.

    He has NEVER been anything other than a corporatist, with his two cups of coffee as a community organizer simply a way station on building his brand.

    On a more positive note, it’s good to see John Conyers calling for protests over the debt deal. One of the crueler ironies of this man’s presidency is that he has effectively destroyed independent Black (and perhaps working and middle class) politics for years.

    However, don’t think his political operatives aren’t concerned. Though it received little media coverage, thousands of teachers demonstrated in DC this weekend against privatization and neo-liberal attacks on public education (and heard a brave, eloquent and passionate speech by Matt Damon, among many others). The organizers mets briefly with Arne Duncan, who gave his usual used-car salesman pitch about how “We all want the same thing.” The organizers called him on it, and said, “No, we don’t want the same thing: you want to privatize the schools and bust the unions, and we’re here to oppose that.”

    Later, they received a call from the White House saying that the President wanted to meet with them. There was much debate over the usefulness of meeting with Obama, with some saying it would legitimize our cause, and others saying it was a trap to co-opt and neutralize the march. The debate ended when someone brought up Duncan’s Facebook page, where he said the administration and the marchers were mostly in agreement.

    That settled things, and they refused to meet with Obama. Now just imagine what O-Bait-and- Switch’s political operatives thought when they got the brush off from rank and file teachers, whom they know are needed for his re-election?

    There aren’t many sources of satisfaction these days, but it was nice to picture those hacks wincing a little bit.

  9. Dicker Snippington

    Apply pressure to hedge-fund billionaires. In the world of addiction, this would be known as “an intervention.” Slow, monitored programs of treatment could be given to the afflicted, marginalizing their destructive sociopathy and returning them to productive, healthy lives. The smoldering ruins of their parasitical organizations signals the end of their failuers. Shed no tears, for the treatment clinics will include small isolation chamber to correct for disobedience, gentle tomes are piped in to mediate treatment resistant Bankster beligerence: ‘We won’t pay your mortgage, we won’t pay your mortgage….We won’t pay for your wars, we will never again pay for your wars”

    1. ambrit

      My Dear Sir, or Madam;
      Unfortunately, with the cuts in Pell Grants and Student Loans in the pipeline, the ‘Powers and Principalities’ have made entering the armed forces one of the last resources for the poor and wretched of our earth to gain higher educations. When the ‘Professional Military’ formally becomes an independant social class, Authoritarianism becomes the dominant political value. Add the new ‘Twelve Tyrants,’ and we have a Greek American Tragedy.

  10. Cramdown

    “If there were a default on US debt so that it could no longer be held on bank books as being a riskless asset, most of the major banks would likely be insolvent. It would not be just US debt that must written down, but also debt implicitly guaranteed by the government, such as mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as a wide range of other assets held by the banks.” – Dean Baker

  11. curlydan

    Could someone explain to me if the “agreed to” $1T dollars in cuts are really cuts to non-defense discretionary spending or are these the cuts based on drawing down in Iraq and Afghanistan? I thought the first $1T was achieved through a different way to score the drawdown. But the RealNews guy hear said it was social programs, but Ferguson did not address that issue.

    It seems to me that the can has been kicked down the road for another couple of months, and all that’s been agreed to before the “SuperCongress” creates something is an accounting trick with the real cuts yet to come.

    1. Anti Gubbmint

      WTF are you talking about? Drawing down where? Non-defense discretionary spending has been flat and is a small %, like it has been for decades. Freeper Ass Bags like to shriek about it , however.

    2. curlydan

      might as well answer my own question. As David Dayen (Obama opponent) and now Nate Silver (Obama fan?) point out:
      “The first round of cuts include “only” about $22 billion in reductions in 2012 spending — the same as the bill proposed last week by Representative John A. Boehner, which provided some of the outlines for this deal. That would reduce 2012 G.D.P. by just 0.1 percent, other factors being equal.”

      http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/01/the-fine-print-on-the-debt-deal/

      No mega cuts until 2013–after the election. This deal is delayed austerity although the R’s won on virtually every point and will know how to deal with the D’s and Obama all the way until 2016 when we can get the next R in there to screw us some more.

      There’s no immediate $900B hit as the RealNews guy was implying although I’ll admit it will come if Congress and the pliable Prez follow the law for awhile

      1. Art Nesten

        Nate Silver is precisely correct, but most progressives–including Yves Smith and Paul Jay here–are spreading falsities like hundreds of billions of dollars ($600 billion according to PJ) of government spending are immediately going to cease.

        It’s incredible how many progressives have either lost their minds or got really, really confused about this. I don’t know what to make of this hysteria.

  12. Yearning to Learn

    is the Left finally growing some balls? are they finally starting to see the Trojan Horse President for who he is?

    The forked tongue snake charmer has pretty words, but his actions belie his intent. Finally… FINALLY people seem to be having an open discussion about this.

    We must look into other candidates and other ways.

    The problem of course is our election laws. $1B. that’s the price tag to buy the presidency these days. and only big corporations can pay that.

    I’m in a bad mood because of a friend passing away, and an even worse mood seeing a mockery of what has become of our system.

    Gone are the liberals! With the exception of perhaps Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich… where are the Paul Wellstone’s of Politics?

    how do we move back to the center, instead of the Far far far right-corporatist party? How do the people take back the government from their corporate overlords?

    I’m despondent.

    but at least the Left is finally waking up… too bad it’s likely too late.

    :(

  13. Siggy

    The discussion is beginning in earnest. Look for the markets to value treasuries as the best of a bad lot of options. Hence treasuries will tend to hold their value.

    As to the terms of the apparent deal that is being enacted, what really matters lies a bit in the future and the problem to be solved is in the present. It’s not a good compromise.

  14. Shankara

    “Because gold is money? Says who? Some primitives in India and elsewhere?” F. Beard

    That wooshing sound you hear F. is the sound of millions of decent well paying jobs continuing to leave America’s shores for the rich culture of the primitive environs. With huge expenditures in education and a GDP poised for 9% this year, those poor heathens could learn a lesson or two from America’s chapter on “how not to”.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Shankara;
      Sorry to sound Chauvanist about it, but that whooshing sound you hear is the sound of the Global Financial Elites fleet of corporate jets passing overhead. They don’t care about the workers culture, just the sweat of their brows.
      One of Ghandi Jis pet peeves was the wholesale adoption of European culture fragments by the Indian elites. He was right there. You’ve taken all the less commendable bits, and thus been taken in by the worlds elites. Just like the rest of us. Welcome to the New World Order Brother.

    2. F. Beard

      I’m sorry to have have offended. Primitive but honest certainly is better than the sophisticated dishonesty of central banking.

      With huge expenditures in education and a GDP poised for 9% this year, those poor heathens could learn a lesson or two from America’s chapter on “how not to”. Shankara

      Unfortunately, India has central banking too so it will not escape the same problems that plague the West, imo.

  15. JimBlogger

    So let me get this straight here. They raised the debt ceiling by (at least) $2.1Trillion and slashed federal spending by $2.4Trillion. It took them all that bickering to come up with THAT?! LOL. We’re doomed.

  16. Schofield

    The one question nobody in power in the United States will address is why a sovereign currency country has to borrow all its money to inject into its economy. I wonder why !

Comments are closed.