How To Avoid A Fiscal Cliff

Look to history as a guide:
In the 1990s, Canada, for instance, reduced debt-to-GDP ratios through an aggressive combination of actual, year-over- year spending cuts and higher taxes. The result wasn’t malaise but a burst in activity.

The same happened in the U.S. right after World War II. In 1944 and 1945, annual government spending (in 2005 dollars) averaged about $1 trillion and represented more than 40 percent of GDP. By 1947, it had plummeted to $345 billion in 2005 dollars and 14 percent of GDP. Even facing the demobilization of millions of soldiers, the economy soared and unemployment fell despite almost universal fears that the opposite would happen.

Such outcomes are not flukes. Research by economists Alberto F. Alesina and Silvia Ardagna underscored that fiscal adjustments achieved through spending cuts rather than tax increases are less likely to cause recessions, and, if they do, the slowdowns are mild and short-lived.

What’s more, when spending reductions are accompanied by policies such as the liberalization of trade and labor markets, they are more likely to have a positive impact on growth.

While many economists — and certainly all politicians — worry that turning off the spigot of public spending will shrink an economy (and anger constituents receiving the cash), the opposite is likely to be true.
The problem isn't that there isn't enough wealth to go around-the problem is that it enriches those who benefit from the system that we have.


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