David Wessel. Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Crown Business, pp. 204, $22.00 The United States, once a creditor to the world, is now in debt. Indeed, America is now one of the world’s biggest debtor nations, with an external debt to GDP ratio approaching 100%. While politicians from both parties [...]
David Wessel. Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Crown Business, pp. 204, $22.00
The United States, once a creditor to the world, is now in debt. Indeed, America is now one of the world’s biggest debtor nations, with an external debt to GDP ratio approaching 100%. While politicians from both parties acknowledge that the debt and the federal budget deficit pose substantial policy challenges, there is very little consensus in Washington as to what actually should be done to safeguard the nation’s finances for future generations, or whether deficit reduction should even be considered a primary goal at the moment.
When President Obama mentioned reining in the deficit at the recent Democratic Convention in Charlotte, there was scant applause in the crowd, at least in comparison to other topics he addressed. On the other side of the aisle, there are some ideologically-driven politicians who actually seem to believe their own rhetoric that immediately enacting massive spending cuts will miraculously lead to a new golden age of American economic prosperity, without any deleterious consequences or spillover effects.
With respect to the upcoming 2012 elections, when Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential nominee, he elevated the Budget Committee Chairman to the national stage. From that point on, the “Ryan Plan,” the Wisconsin Congressman’s eponymous budget proposal, which includes significantly cutting spending on federal safety net programs, would be an integral part of the presidential campaign.
An educated layman, bombarded on all sides by pundits in print, and talking heads on cable news, would be hard pressed to make sense of all the various accusations, counter-accusations, and outright lies that permeate the nation’s political discourse this election cycle. For readers interested in finding a guide for the perplexed to the nation’s budget in all its complexity, Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget is a welcome and useful addition to a growing corpus of literature on the peril posed by the national debt to America’s future.
In Red Ink, David Wessel (Wall Street Journal) has penned a relatively brief, but comprehensive, study of the federal budget and the seemingly never-ending political fights over it. The budget is not just about numbers or an abstraction devoid of greater political significance. “With far more precision than thirty-second sound bites or campaign speeches,” posits Wessel, “the president’s budget and alternative crafted by the opposition in Congress reflect contrasting visions for the size of government in America and the role it plays in the economy.” To illustrate his point, Wessel contrasts Jack Lew, President Obama’s director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), with Congressman Paul Ryan. Whereas, Lew “believes in government,” Romney’s running mate is on a “quest . . . to limit the size of government, including spending less on Medicaid and almost everything else.” Ryan’s “weapon of choice,” according to the author, is the budget.
Given that the budget is such a contentious political issue, one would think that the voting public would be fairly well informed as to how much the federal government spends and on what. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case. Indeed, one of the takeaway lessons of Wessel’s recent work is that the public is often misinformed, perhaps staggeringly so, on budgetary matters. Wessel cites the results of one CNN poll in which a typical respondent stated that he believed food stamps accounted for 10% of federal spending (it is actually around 2%). In addition, the results of a Cornell University poll demonstrate that an amazing number of persons who receive Social Security benefits or are covered by the Medicare program feel that they have not used a government social program. The joke about Tea Party protesters holding signs that read, “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare” would be funnier, if it were not such a sad reflection of the state of public knowledge about the U.S. government’s role in the economy.
Red Ink is divided into five discrete chapters, each of which is clearly written and well organized. In a more perfect world, voters heading to the polls this November will read the book’s third chapter, “Where the Money Goes,” prior to casting their ballots. He discusses such topics as how voters overestimate waste and inefficiency, how health care spending is rising to a greater extent than other portions of the federal budget, and how Social Security, which accounts for approximately 20% of federal spending, “is perhaps the most popular part of the federal budget.” Regarding farm policy, Wessel notes that President Obama’s most recent budget envisioned ending direct payments to farmers. He also discusses the food stamp program and the expansion of the program under both George W. Bush and Obama.
The book’s final chapter, “Why This Can’t Go On Forever,” is a wakeup call to Americans and their elected representatives. Wessel approvingly quotes Doug Elmendorf, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), who has argued that there is a stark disconnect between what the public expects the federal government to provide, especially to seniors, and what taxes people are willing to pay to finance such programs. As much as the public likes to criticize Congress, it must be incredibly frustrating for those rare politicians seriously interested in reducing the deficit to be told by constituents that they want even lower taxes, but that Congress shouldn’t cut Social Security or defense. While Wessel is overall successful in defining the contours of the political debate, his work’s final chapter would have been even more powerful had he been more revealing as to his personal opinions, particularly regarding what approach to deficit reduction would be most preferable.
Red Ink does not end on a particularly optimistic note. Wessel is clearly frustrated by the lack of compromise in Washington, polarized as he perceived it to be between President Obama’s budget and Congressman Ryan’s alternative. “Neither side has enough votes to prevail, and neither is willing to compromise on some amalgam that might spread the pain that both can live with. This is the crux of the issue: the deficit widens, the debt grows, the interest burden gets heavier, the voices grow even more shrill as the budget burden is passed to future generations, and nothing gets done.” If, as I suspect, the 2012 elections result in both President Obama’s reelection and a Democrat-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House, we probably ought to prepare ourselves for another two more years of gridlock. Eventually, however, the proverbial ‘can’ may rise up and no longer let politicians to boot it any further down an already long and tired road.
Jonathan Eric Lewis (c) 2012
Simon Johnson and James Kwak. White Housing Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters To You. Pantheon Books, 2012, pp. 352, $26.95 The two constants in the upcoming 2012 general election likely will be an inordinate amount of negative campaigning and vigorous disagreement about how to best foster economic growth. Implicit [...]
Simon Johnson and James Kwak. White Housing Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters To You. Pantheon Books, 2012, pp. 352, $26.95
The two constants in the upcoming 2012 general election likely will be an inordinate amount of negative campaigning and vigorous disagreement about how to best foster economic growth. Implicit in any discussion about the nation’s economic woes is the national debt, which as of May 7, 2012, was $15,671,202,480,642.98. While the political center-left has highlighted the perils of rising consumer and student debt, the Tea Party movement and political libertarians have ensured that the perils of this country’s rising national debt remain in the public consciousness. But what should be done about the country’s debt? Should we enter into an age of austerity in which public spending at the federal level is significantly curtailed and once-cherished safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare are quasi-privatized? How did we get ourselves into debt to begin with? At a more theoretical level, should we be asking ourselves whether debt is always such a bad thing for a country?
In White House Burning, Simon Johnson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and James Kwak (University of Connecticut School of Law)* argue that the debate over the national debt comes down to how Americans want to respond to risk, either on their own volition, or through government-run insurance programs. The same is true for the deficit. “The great deficit debate,” write the authors, “is about how much risk people should bear themselves and how much they should pool with each other via the government.” The authors contend that it is indeed possible to maintain a sustainable level of debt and simultaneously have the federal government continue to play its role as an insurer against risk. Indeed, in chapter seven, they delineate what they believe to be the best method for achieving this goal. While most conservatives would likely not agree with their recommendation that the Bush tax cuts expire, others surely will appreciate their preference that tax expenditures, including the mortgage interest deduction, be eliminated or reduced.
While the direct policy sections of White House Burning are somewhat dry reading and do not break substantially new ground, the book’s earlier chapters do merit attention, particularly by those readers interested in economic history. In their Introduction, they discuss how the country’s fiscal weakness during the War of 1812 led to the burning of the White House by British troops in 1814, “the low point of the war, a moment of national humiliation that remains an iconic image in U.S. history” and, one should note, accounts for the title of the book. The problem during the War of 1812, contend the authors, was that Great Britain had money, while Congress opted for “higher spending without higher taxes.” Today, the approaching fiscal crisis comes not from the threat of a literal land invasion, but by a greying population and rising health care costs.
In Chapter 1, entitled “Immortal Credit,” Johnson and Kwak provide an overview of how the United States dealt with its national debt prior to the end of the gold standard in the Nixon era. Not surprisingly, Alexander Hamilton, America’s first Treasury Secretary, and the man responsible for enacting the country’s earliest fiscal policies, plays an important role. In the book’s second chapter, “End of Gold,” the authors posit that the changing relationship between gold and money over the past three centuries has had important consequences for the national debt. The breakdown of the Bretton Woods system for international finance in the early 1970s, led to a growth of American national indebtedness. “Under the Bretton Woods system, the capacity of the world to buy American bonds was limited by American gold reserves; today it is limited only by market demand, which has turned out to be much more forgiving.” Indeed, international investors still consider Treasury bonds to be safe assets. But, as the authors aptly warn, markets could turn against the United States should the world begin to doubt Washington’s ability to manage the dollar effectively.
In conclusion, White House Burning is a useful primer for those readers interested in learning about the national debt and what drives it. Although not as compelling as the authors’ previous work, 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown, in which they argued that the close ties between Washington and Wall Street are not healthy for the American economy and polity, this most recent publication is still worth reading. This is particularly true for readers interested in how the federal government acts as an insurer against risk for a large segment of the population. Whether their work will have any impact on the gridlock in Washington remains yet to be seen.
Jon Lewis (c) 2012
* I received my J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law prior to Professor Kwak taking the position at the law school.
Philip Coggan. Paper Promises: Debt, Money, and the New World Order. Public Affairs, 2012, pp. 294, $27.99 What is money? At first, it sounds like a simple question. But, as this thoughtful new book makes abundantly clear, the definitions of what money is, and what it should be in the future, are far more complex [...]
Philip Coggan. Paper Promises: Debt, Money, and the New World Order. Public Affairs, 2012, pp. 294, $27.99
What is money? At first, it sounds like a simple question. But, as this thoughtful new book makes abundantly clear, the definitions of what money is, and what it should be in the future, are far more complex than one might initially realize. In Paper Promises, Philip Coggan of The Economist forces the reader to think differently both about the nature of money and the concept of debt. “Modern money,” writes Coggan, “is debt and debt is money.” Throughout this engaging work, he successfully demonstrates how, throughout history, societal attitudes toward money and debt have changed and that they may be about to change once again.
The author contends that one can view all of economic history through the prism of a perennial contest between creditors and debtors, between those who lend money and those who borrow it. Anyone reading a newspaper these days knows all-too-well that much of the West is in debt. The battle between creditors and debtors aptly described by Coggan is being played out in front of our very eyes. Although some countries, like Greece, are in far more perilous shape than others, both the European Union and the United States face the looming prospects of increased sovereign debt and the possibility of default.
“As these debts become due,” writes the author, “rich creditors will be pitted against poor debtors; private-sector taxpayers against public-sector workers, young workers against the retired, domestic voters against foreign bondholders. It is impossible to forecast who will win each of these battles but one thing seems certain: not all these debts will be paid in full.” One of the book’s myriad takeaway lessons is that creditors will be disappointed. The breaking of these paper promises, as Coggan describes them, will result in economic turmoil akin to the end of the gold standard in the 1930s and of fixed exchange rates in the 1970s.
The book’s first chapter, entitled, “The Nature of Money” is a thought-provoking introduction to the concept of money. “For thousands of years,” writes Coggan, “the nature of money has been subject to change at the whim of those in power.” Indeed, the relationship between state power and money is nothing new. Coggan suggests, however, that something new did occur in eighteenth-century France, when John Law, a Scottish economist advising Louis XV, fathered modern monetary economics and attempted to redefine money. Law advised the French king that the way out of the country’s fiscal mess was to create a bank with the right to issue paper money, even if it were not backed by gold. This, recounts the author, led to an asset bubble in the form of land speculation in the Mississippi basin.
In a more theoretical section of the same chapter, the author delineates three uses of money. As a medium of exchange, money allows people to buy and sell goods and services without having to barter or ship bullion across great distances. He rightly notes that, with regard to the “media of exchange, paper and electronic money are much more useful than precious metals.” Money is also a unit of account, meaning that it expresses “the price of goods and services with relation to one denominator.” Finally, as a store of value, money allows one to save and not spend what one earns immediately. This facilitates investment. Coggan posits that, “the means of exchange and the store of value . . . lie at the heart of the struggle between creditors and debtors.” For the last forty years, he argues, the pendulum has swung toward loose money and money’s medium of exchange function. In other words, credit and money have expanded, benefitting debtors.
In Coggan’s estimation, our troubles began with the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the early 1970s, when the formal link between money and gold disappeared. “Paper money prevailed. Without a gold anchor, and without full capital controls, fixed exchange rates were not really feasible. Governments preferred the freedom to govern their own economies as they saw fit, using both monetary and fiscal policies to support demand.” According to Coggan, these governments and their central banks “overdid it, a process that culminated in the debt crisis of 2007 and 2008.” As he writes in the book’s introduction, the developed world financed their economies through debt.
Although Coggan tells a compelling story of how we got into our current debt crisis, it need not have ended up this way. The author certainly makes a strong case for the argument that the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system likely contributed to the vast increase of debt in the western world. Demography, fiscal policy, globalization, housing policy, and technology, however, also played dispositive roles in destabilizing the world economy. In my opinion, if voters throughout the past decade were more demanding that politicians in Washington adhere to a balanced budget and not engage in excessive spending, many of our current problems could have been avoided.
While Coggan accurately notes that the Clinton administration ran “a fairly conservative fiscal policy,” he seems to imply that the 1990s boom and budget surpluses were an anomaly in the post-Bretton Woods era, rather than part of a natural ebb and flow cycle in which politicians and bureaucrats alternatively acted fiscally responsibly and irresponsibly. After all, governments throughout history have made financial decisions that would prove, in retrospect, to have been significantly flawed.
One should not underestimate China’s potential to make financial, or political, mistakes that will inadvertently benefit the United States. Given the infeasibility of returning to a gold standard in an age of electronic money and instantaneous transfers, western countries are going to have to find a way to create a more stable fiscal and monetary system. If they do not, and the United States experiences a lost decade of anemic growth, then the world’s new monetary system may very well, as Coggan suggests, be made in China.
Due to his willingness to acknowledge readily that, “there are no easy answers in economics,” Coggan’s work stands apart. Paper Promises certainly doesn’t have all the answers; it, however, does force the reader to think differently about the nature of money and of debt. One need not agree with Coggan’s analysis of fiat money to appreciate that Paper Promises is an extremely thoughtful contribution to the ongoing debate about the financial crisis and our current debt problems.
Jon Lewis (c) 2012
Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks And Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy. Yalman Onaran. Bloomberg Press, 2012, pp. 184, $34.95 Over the past several years, both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have been at the forefront of criticizing the federal government’s bailout of large financial institutions. While their criticism is generally [...]
Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks And Debtor Nations Are Crippling the Global Economy. Yalman Onaran. Bloomberg Press, 2012, pp. 184, $34.95
Over the past several years, both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have been at the forefront of criticizing the federal government’s bailout of large financial institutions. While their criticism is generally merited, it is unclear whether it would have been realistic, not to mention politically viable, to have let the big banks fail. Such a move truly could have had devastating effects on the American economy, dwarfing the Great Recession and its aftereffects.
Letting the banks survive to see another day, however, led to the creation of financial zombies, dead, but still living. Not only do they linger in our midst, zombie banks are also holding back our economic recovery. Such is the thesis of Yalman Onaran’s recently published Zombie Banks: How Broken Banks are Crippling the Global Economy. Onaran, a reporter at Bloomberg News, builds upon the notion of zombie banks, a concept first utilized by finance professor Edward J. Kane in a 1987 academic paper. “In its simplest form,” writes Onaran, “[a] zombie bank refers to an insolvent financial institution whose equity capital has been wiped out so that the value of its obligations is greater than its assets.” In its simplest formulation, these are banks that are, for a lack of a better term, broke, but kept alive through government intervention or, as the case may be, non-intervention.
Onaran’s intention in writing this book was to provide a big picture analysis of the global financial crisis. The author argues that many of the current policies employed by both European and the American polities have resulted in the creation of zombie banks. These financial zombies remain alive due to, among other factors, government backing of bank debt and near-zero interest rates. Onaran contends that, “it’s the taxpayer money that zombie banks eat and that’s where their harm to society is.” In a series of vignettes written in a lively, accessible journalistic style, he is generally successful in showing the interconnectedness of the distressed banking sector, government policies on both sides of the Atlantic, and economic stagnation. Indeed, he boldly contends that, “despite their claims to the contrary, politicians worldwide have not tackled the structural problems in the financial system underlying that crisis.” Temporary fixes, it could be said, are not solutions.
Onaran utilizes a comparative approach, one that is notably lacking in many journalistic accounts of the financial crisis. In detailing the differences in how Iceland, Ireland, and the United States handled their respective countries’ banking difficulties, he provides particular insight into the problem of zombie banks. The United States took somewhat of a middle course between the two aforementioned island nations’ approaches to troubled banks, a trajectory more akin to that taken by Germany, which created its own zombies.
Whereas the Irish government initially guaranteed the liabilities of the country’s national banks in 2008 in response to the credit crunch, the Icelandic government embarked upon a starkly different course, seizing the banks and restructuring them, effectively letting the bad banks die. “So while one island’s banks were kept alive as zombies for two more years before they brought down the whole country with them,” writes Onaran, “the neighboring island’s troubled banks were allowed to die.” He points out that, while Iceland has not had it easy since 2008, the country did two notable things correctly; first, private bank debt was not converted to public debt and second, Reykjavik did not prop up failed banks, allowing them to continue artificial lives as zombies.
The relationship between the private debts of financial institutions and sovereign debt is a significant one. “As is the case with most financial crises,” posits Onaran, “the problems of the banks are closely associated with the debt overhang society faces after a decade or two of binging on cheap credit.” He raises thought-provoking issues regarding central bank policies that keep interest rates at a near-zero level.
Onaran contends that these exceedingly low interest rates designed to keep zombies alive and to aid them in healing their balance sheets has harmful societal effects and terms it “a wealth transfer from pensioners and others relying on fixed returns of their savings to the banks’ coffers.” This results, for a segment of society, in reduced disposable income and reducing spending. He also highlights what he perceives to be the connection between quantitative easing and events abroad, positing that it has led to commodity price increases and bubbles in emerging markets. Cheap money, it would seem, needs a home. One could easily imagine a future study detailing the largely unforeseen effects that quantitative easing had had on the politics of foreign lands.
In conclusion, Zombie Banks is a useful addition to the growing corpus of literature on the global financial crisis. While the author could have devoted more attention to the issue of moral hazard in banking regulation, free market advocates will be heartened by Onaran’s contention that propping up banks that should have died is not fair to competitors. “In a real market economy, those companies that take the wrong risks and lose out are supposed to fail, their customers and market share shifting to the surviving firms that were more prudent.” Onaran’s suggestion that governments need to kill the zombies off so that economies can recover is perhaps theoretically correct, though it is probably politically impossible at this time, at least in the United States. Bailouts may be, for better or worse, the new normal. If that is the case, then zombies will continue to stagger among us.
Jon Lewis (c) 2012
Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State. Vito Tanzi. Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 376, $35.00 If the past is any guide to the present, many voters in the 2012 presidential primaries, as well as in the general election, will make their choices based upon the personalities of the candidates. While unfortunate, [...]
Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State. Vito Tanzi. Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 376, $35.00
If the past is any guide to the present, many voters in the 2012 presidential primaries, as well as in the general election, will make their choices based upon the personalities of the candidates. While unfortunate, this is not entirely without good reason. It would be preferable, however, if the majority of the voting public were able focus less on the quixotic personalities in the race, and more on the most pressing, and interrelated, issues of our time; namely, the size and scope of the federal government and the national debt. Whatever one might think of their methods or their ideology, the American public has the Tea Party largely to thank for bringing attention to the debt crisis and the unsustainability of the current entitlement system.
In Government versus Markets, Vito Tanzi (formerly the director of the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund) opens with the premise that, “[t]here is no more fundamental question in economics than what role the state or the government should play in a country’s economy.” Although some might dispute this characterization as demonstrating a bias toward macroeconomics, it is inarguable that the relationship between the state and the private sector is likely to be significantly redefined in the next decade. The question, of course, is in what direction. Will the next decade witness a move toward greater federal government involvement in education, energy, and health care or toward a smaller government that does less, but with greater fairness and efficiency? Or something in between?
In what can best be described as a sweeping intellectual history of the role of the state in modern industrial economies, Tanzi demonstrates how, from the late nineteenth century onward, the state has taken on an increasingly greater role in the economy. With references to economists Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, as well as to Bismarck’s social insurance legislation in Germany, which the author rightly notes “had a major impact on the world and must be seen as a major and perhaps the most important landmark in social legislation,” the author successfully integrates economic history with political philosophy. In Chapter 8, for instance, the author devotes his attention to both the voluntary exchange theory and public choice, citing the work of James Buchanan.
In Tanzi’s assessment, in the first half of the twentieth-century in industrialized countries, “the government became a huge insurance company and intermediary for the citizens.” This, of course, did not come without a cost; namely, increased taxation and spending. In a passage particularly relevant to the fiscal morass in which we currently find ourselves, Tanzi, in the book’s introduction, reminds the reader that there is a direct correlation between current fiscal policy and the future role of the state in the economy. “When governmental intervention comes through higher spending and higher taxes, as it often does, it can change for future years the economic role of the state and the status of a country’s public finances.” It would seem that, at times, large segments of the American public have forgotten Milton Friedman’s pithy observation that there is indeed no such thing as a free lunch.
In light of the ongoing public debate over income inequality, Tanzi’s discussion of the subject matter, albeit not the central focus of Government versus Markets, is worth consideration. He contends that, “in a competitive and globalizing world, reduction in income inequality, although important, cannot be the sole of the main objective of economic policy. If that were the case, the policies pursued by the planned economies in the past, and by Cuba and North Korea today, would be praised and imitated.” Indeed, if twentieth-century has taught us anything, it is that well-intentioned social engineering projects aimed at reducing income inequality have, unless constrained by an open, pluralistic political system and a commitment to the rule of law, will often backfire, which lead to greater misery for a larger number of people.
If the state’s power in the economy has increased throughout the past century, what is the likely role of the state in the future? It is here that Tanzi makes his most provocative contentions. Regulations, rather than the government’s taxing and spending powers, will become more influential. He suggests that governments have focused too much on replacing the private market with the public sector and too little on preventing market failure. A fundamental principle to guide the state’s economic role, Tanzi posits is an “ambitious normative option,” wherein governments should focus on the prevention of market failure, more than on remedying failure after the fact. Of course, regulatory policy is hardly an uncontested terrain. For this reason, it is likely that Tanzi suggests that, “a clear, binding, legal guideline may be necessary” to deal with the myriad political problems associated with regulatory policy, such as regulatory capture. This is perhaps much easier said than done.
In terms of fiscal policy, Tanzi enumerates four possible developments that, either by themselves or in combination, can contribute to large reductions in debts and fiscal deficits: substantial drops in interest rates for government debt; high economic growth; unanticipated inflation; “and reforms in taxes and in public spending associated with a major change in the role of the state in the economy that lead to large reductions in public spending and/or significant increases in tax levels.” It is the last approach – one, it should be noted, that is not altogether different from the path suggested by Congressman Paul Ryan – that Tanzi suggests is the better option.
Tanzi appears to call for a form of “libertarian paternalism,” a term that he uses in quotes. In this approach, the government’s focus would be on reducing risks, rather than correcting ex post preventable outcomes. Under this approach, the government would have a direct role in assisting the deserving poor. With lower taxes and less spending, the middle class would use its larger share of post-tax disposable income to buy protection from the market place and some social services formerly provided for by the government. “This,” opines Tanzi, “is not an easy way out from the current fiscal mess, but it may be the only realistic one for many countries over the long run.” Policymakers supportive of expanding the federal government’s role in health insurance would be well advised to take Tanzi’s arguments seriously.
In conclusion, Government versus Markets is an excellent and highly thoughtful book that deserves a wide audience. It is no longer possible to believe that the current fiscal trajectory in the United States is sustainable over the long term. Although reduced taxation and spending will come at a significant cost, it is likewise true that continuing business as usual will come at an even greater cost, particularly for the recent college graduates who are inheriting a future with limited opportunity.
Jon Lewis (c) 2011