What’s the End Game for A Long-Term Recession?

Henry Blodget has a good post with a couple of great graphs addressing the trends in federal revenues and expenditures. I’ll borrow the graphs and then offer a couple of comments:

Now, those sorts of numbers have been published before in one form or another but these two do a good job of bringing home the reality we face. So, what are the implications?

Blodget suggests that we either spend a couple of decades paying back the debt and suffering the implications of living on less during that period or it ends in a debacle.

I tend to agree that in a rational world the first would be a likely outcome and the second would occur if the political class continues to ignore reality. I tend to think that all the talk of deficit reduction might well be a recognition within the hallowed halls of government that we have indeed reached a point at which our ability to float substantially more debt is going to be constrained. If that’s the case then one has to ask how do you sell this to the public without a wholesale restructuring of the division of spoils in the American society. In other words, how do you maintain the status quo while you ask most of the country to put aside promises upon which they’ve constructed their lives.

You see, you might well propose that we suffer for a couple of decades in order to put the fiscal house in order, but if you offer that solution then you have to deal with an unequal distribution of suffering. Right now, the burden has fallen more or less on the private sector. At the state level, government employees are starting to feel the pinch, so we’ll see how that plays out. At the federal level, it’s business as usual.

Spreading the pain is not something that politicians are likely to willingly undertake. If you don’t do so then you risk schisms within society that give rise to radical solutions that fundamentally change structures. Look at the results of recent elections, the rise of groups like the Tea Baggers and the apparent attractiveness of populist rhetoric to get a sense of the unease that exists.

You can talk all you like about Wall Street salaries, but if asked to suffer substantially for an extended period of time expect the electorate to demand something in return that goes far beyond a few highly paid bankers. I doubt that quid pro quo will be offered willingly by those enjoying its spoils so the exciting ending Blodget suggests might well be one that none of us can postulate.

About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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