The first major shot in what will probably become a global political war to reduce deficits has been fired. President Obama has announced a new budget which contains cuts to many areas. While the obviousness of reducing debt levels is hard to deny, personal and corporate interest will create mass cries of ‘not this’ to many of the proposed reductions.
The fact that President Bush’s proposals to get NASA really moving again are for the chop is being criticised, for example. It is hard to deny that no further space flight can be seen as a disappointment. But really, when you are forecast to owe US$1.56 trillion, do you really need to send Man back to the Moon? Aren’t there more important things to do with the money?
To make this seem a little more real, an example would be a family on the verge of bankruptcy, with a massive mortgage and other unsustainable debts. The husband has just been asked to take a pay cut by his employer and to celebrate, he bought a Porsche!
If your neighbour were in such a situation, you would – rightly – blame them for their financial demise. When they ought to be switching off the cable channels and looking for additional part-time work, they are spending big money on an unaffordable luxury.
Is it really so much different on a national level?
But this is the easy end of the scale. With such high national debts, there will be many more important projects that will need to be cut. In time, a couple of years perhaps, there will be medical projects, childcare, road safety and much more that will be dumped to stave off national bankruptcy. This will be happening in many Western democracies.
And in those same democracies, there will be political argument after political argument.
Of course, this will all be very tough for private investment. When state plans change, so will personal circumstances – possibly removing vital capital from stock markets – leading to knock on effects in areas I dare not try to forsee.
This is – to my mind – the real start of the hang-over after the party. So far, we have simply been getting home to bed. But the spiral down of reduced spending from governments, causing reduced spending from corporations and the public, leading to further reduced spending from all three will take a long time to balance. Just as the party was pushed upwards by ever increasing public sector spending – based in large part on borrowing – the recession will be exacerbated by it.
Hold on to your hats…