Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"Japan's pump-primed recovery proves US deficit hawks wrong"

Dean Baker @ The Guardian:
Many of the people who ridicule efforts at using government spending to boost the economy and create jobs like to turn to Japan to warn countries from following that route. After all, Japan's budget deficit last year was more than 10% of GDP. That would be more than $1.6tn in the US economy today. Its gross debt is more than 245% of GDP. That would imply a debt of almost $40tn in the United States, which would mean a debt of $125,000 for every man, women, and child in the country.

Those are the sorts of numbers that policy types in Washington find really scary. Fortunately for the Japanese people, the folks currently running their economy are more interested in sound economic policy than pushing scare stories about debt and deficits. Rather than rushing to reduce the deficit, Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, went in the opposite direction. He deliberately increased spending to create jobs.

He also appointed a new head of Japan's central bank who is committed to raising the inflation rate. Japan has been suffering from near-zero inflation, or even deflation, since the collapse of its stock and housing bubbles in 1990. Abe's pick as head of the central bank has committed the bank to raising the inflation rate to 2%. Implicit in this commitment is the notion that the bank will buy up as many Japanese government bonds as needed to reach its inflation target.

In other words, the bank is prepared to print lots of money.

While we are still in the early days of Abe's program (he just took office at the end of 2012), the preliminary signs are positive. The economy grew at a 2.4% annual rate in the second quarter, after growing at a 3.6% rate in the first quarter. By comparison, GDP in the United States grew at an average rate of just 1.4% in these two quarters.