Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee revealed too much when he blamed lower government spending for the reduction in GDP in the first quarter.
Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said that a slowdown in government spending was mostly responsible for the 1.8 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) between January and March, down from 3.1 in the fourth quarter of 2010.
“It was an expected slowdown,” Goolsbee said in an interview on Bloomberg television. “The biggest driver was a reduction in government spending at the federal level, a big negative from defense spending.”
I guess defense orders were in a weird cycle where not a lot of them hit in the January-March period. But that cycle will reverse somewhat in the next quarter, according to Goolsbee.
Still, the statement here is that reduced government spending causes slower growth. Well, we know that the 2011 budget cuts spending in the next two quarters. And we know that all Republicans and not a few Democrats want to attach some major spending cuts to the debt limit vote, which needs to take place in the next couple months. So there is no doubt that we will see lower federal spending as far as the eye can see. And Austan Goolsbee is saying here that reductions of government spending at the federal level slow down the economy, given the state it’s in right now.
Just a word on these Democrats and the debt limit:
The push-back has come in recent days from Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a freshman who is running for reelection next year. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told constituents during the Easter recess that he would not vote to lift the debt limit without a “real and meaningful commitment to debt reduction.”
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), generally a stalwart White House ally, is undecided on the issue and is “hopeful” that a debt-ceiling bill can be attached to a measure to cut the federal deficit, said her spokesman, Linden Zakula. Klobuchar is also up for reelection next year.
There’s no way to implement a strategy of brinksmanship on the debt limit when both parties agree on the outcome, that massive reductions in spending need to be included.
But just to extrapolate from Goolsbee, what these Democrats are saying is that the economy needs to grow slower, create less jobs and cause more suffering for individuals in the near term. That’s the goal of US fiscal policy right now.