Home > America’s Fiscal Collapse
America’s Fiscal Collapse
by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, March 2, 2009
“We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger" ( President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address 24 Feb 2009)
"Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account—to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day—because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." President Barack Obama, A New Era of Responsibility, the 2010 Budget)
"Strong economic medicine" with a "human face"
“Promise amid peril.” The stated priorities of the Obama economic package are health, education, renewable energy, investment in infrastructure and transportation. "Quality education" is at the forefront. Obama has also promised to "make health care more affordable and accessible", for every American.
At first sight, the budget proposal has all the appearances of an expansionary program, a demand oriented "Second New Deal" geared towards creating employment, rebuilding shattered social programs and reviving the real economy.
The realities are otherwise. Obama’s promise is based on a mammoth austerity program. The entire fiscal structure is shattered, turned upside down.
To reach these stated objectives, a significant hike in public spending on social programs (health, education, housing, social security) would be required as well as the implementation of a large scale public investment program. Major shifts in the composition of public expenditure would also be required: i.e. a move out of a war economy, requiring a movement out of military related spending in favour of civilian programs.
In actuality, what we are dealing with is the most drastic curtailment in public spending in American history, leading to social havoc and the potential impoverishment of millions of people.
The Obama promise largely serves the interests of Wall Street, the defence contractors and the oil conglomerates. In turn, the Bush-Obama bank "bailouts" are leading America into a spiralling public debt crisis. The economic and social dislocations are potentially devastating.
Obama’s budget submitted to Congress on February 26, 2009 envisages outlays for the 2010 fiscal year (commencing October 1st 2009) of $3.94 trillion, an increase of 32 percent. Total government revenues for the 2010 fiscal year, according to preliminary estimates by the Bureau of Budget, are of the order of $2.381 trillion.
The predicted budget deficit (according to the president’s speech) is of the order of $1.75 trillion, almost 12 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
War and Wall Street
This is a "War Budget". The austerity measures hit all major federal spending programs with the exception of: 1. Defence and the Middle East War: 2. the Wall Street bank bailout, 3. Interest payments on a staggering public debt.
The budget diverts tax revenues into financing the war. It legitimizes the fraudulent transfers of tax dollars to the financial elites under the "bank bailouts".
The pattern of deficit spending is not expansionary. We are not dealing with a Keynesian style deficit, which stimulates investment and consumer demand, leading to an expansion of production and employment.
The "bank bailouts" (involving several initiatives financed by tax dollars) constitute a component of government expenditure. Both the Bush and Obama bank bailouts are hand outs to major financial institutions. They do not constitute a positive spending injection into the real economy. Quite the opposite. The bailouts contribute to financing the restructuring of the banking system leading to a massive concentration of wealth and centralization of banking power.
A large part of the bailout money granted by the US government will be transferred electronically to various affiliated accounts including the hedge funds. The largest banks in the US will also use this windfall cash to buy out their weaker competitors, thereby consolidating their position. The tendency, therefore, is towards a new wave of corporate buyouts, mergers and acquisitions in the financial services industry.
In turn, the financial elites will use these large amounts of liquid assets (paper wealth), together with the hundreds of billions acquired through speculative trade, to buy out real economy corporations (airlines, the automobile industry, Telecoms, media, etc ), whose quoted value on the stock markets has tumbled.
In essence, a budget deficit (combined with massive cuts in social programs) is required to fund the handouts to the banks as well as finance defence spending and the military surge in the Middle East war. Obama’s budget envisages:
1. defense spending of $534 billion for 2010, a supplemental 130 billion dollar appropriation for fiscal 2010 for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a supplemental $75.5 billion emergency war funding for the rest of the 2009 fiscal year. Defence spending and the Middle East war, with various supplemental budgets, is (officially) of the order of 739.5 billion. Some estimates place aggregate defence and military related spending at $ 1 trillion+.
2. A bank bailout of the order of $750 billion announced by Obama, which is added on to the 700 billion dollar bailout money already allocated by the outgoing Bush administration under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). The total of both programs is a staggering 1.45 trillion dollars to be financed by the Treasury. It should be understood that the actual amount of cash financial "aid" to the banks is significantly larger than $1.45 trillion. (See Table 2 below).
3. Net Interest on the outstanding public debt is estimated by the Bureau of the Budget) at $164 billion in 2010.
The order of magnitude of these allocations is staggering. Under a "balanced budget" criterion —which has been a priority of government economic policy since the Reagan era—, almost all the revenues of the federal government amounting to $2.381 trillion would be used to finance the bank bailout (1.45 trillion), the war ($739 billion) and interest payments on the public debt ($164 billion). In other words, no money would be left over for other categories of public expenditure.
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