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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 25 febbraio 2013 alle ore 12:55.


BERKELEY – The United States is confronting another round of cuts in federal government spending, this time threatening to trim at least 0.5 percentage points from GDP growth and to precipitate a loss of at least one million jobs. Automatic across-the-board spending cuts, the so-called sequester, would reduce spending by $85 billion, with defense programs cut by about 8% and domestic programs by about 5% this year – and with additional cuts of comparable dollar amounts every year until 2021.

All major government functions – national security, foreign aid, basic research, emergency relief, and education, to name a few salient examples – would experience an immediate and sizeable funding hit. These cuts, along with the tax increases agreed to in January, would knock about 1.25 percentage points off 2013 GDP growth, consigning the economy to another year of tepid recovery and disappointing job gains.

The real aim of the sequester’s advocates is a smaller federal government – a goal that often is cloaked in the argument that excessive government spending is choking economic growth. Although this is a politically compelling argument, because it stokes public fears about an out-of-control deficit, it flies in the face of the facts.

Anemic government spending, not profligacy, has been a major factor behind the economy’s lackluster recovery. According to a by the Congressional Budget Office, large spending cuts by state and local governments – and, more recently, a significant reduction in federal spending – have contributed to the unusual and prolonged weakness of aggregate demand.

In recent speeches, US Federal Reserve Chairman and Vice Chair have described fiscal policy at the local, state, and federal levels as a powerful headwind slowing the economy’s return to full employment. In the year after the recession ended, discretionary spending at the federal, state, and local levels boosted growth at about the same pace as in previous recoveries.

But, since then – and in sharp contrast to previous recoveries – fiscal policy has become contractionary, reducing aggregate demand and restraining growth. State and local governments have cut spending and payrolls significantly. And federal purchases of goods and services have been declining since 2010, when the temporary additional spending in the 2009 stimulus package came to an end.

Even without the sequester, (including both purchases and transfer payments) has declined under President Barack Obama, while it increased under every preceding president since Richard Nixon. (Indeed, per capita spending growth was much faster under the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush than it was under Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.) And, even without the sequester, the federal budget deficit is at a faster pace during the next two years than in any two-year period since demobilization after World War II.

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