Is yet another U.S. economic crisis now unavoidable?
“The U.S. confronts not one but two economic challenges: Its worst recession since the Depression and a growing imbalance between federal spending and revenues that makes its underlying fiscal policy unsustainable.
To get the economy going, the Obama administration and Congress have committed trillions of dollars to bailouts of the financial and automobile industries and to a stimulus package of tax cuts and government spending. These measures, on top of our current economic weakness and the imbalance between spending and revenues, have left us with a projected federal budget deficit of $1.7 trillion in 2009, or 12% of U.S. gross domestic product, a deficit share we have not even approached since World War II.
Most economists accept the need to put aside concerns about fiscal balance as we address the recession. But soon enough we will face pressure to shift our focus from the short-term economic problem to our longer-term fiscal problem. And, unfortunately, poor policy choices in the past combined with the enormity of the recession make the second problem worse and reduce the time we will have to deal with it.”
“In the immediate future, policymakers will face a delicate balancing act between encouraging economic recovery and establishing fiscal sustainability. Short-term stimulus can boost an otherwise weak economy, so withdrawing stimulative policies and imposing fiscal discipline too soon could slow the recovery. But delaying fiscal discipline too long could be equally destructive. Success will take new ideas, some luck and uncharacteristic honesty and resoluteness -- from our leaders in Washington and from the rest of us.”