The fiscal cliff cometh
By Mohamed A. El-Erian, Published: May 3Economists are rightly starting to warn that the United States faces a worrisome “fiscal cliff” at year’s end. The blunt spending cuts mandated by the 2011 compromise on the debt ceiling — and the failure of the “supercommittee” that followed — along with across-the-board tax increases would derail the U.S. recovery and undermine the well-being of the global economy. We should be avoiding the edge of this cliff — and politicians should not believe that they have until the end of this year to act.
In the next few months, possibly within weeks, markets here and abroad will be looking for signals that our politicians understand the severity of the situation and are able and willing to act appropriately. If clear signals are not forthcoming, markets could react early to the looming trouble, compounding the uncertainties that weigh on the U.S. economy.
It is well known that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have failed in the past few years to address our nation’s difficult fiscal issues. The most visible example is the repeated absence of a comprehensive annual budget. Less obvious but equally important is the large and meaningful collection of budgetary reforms that have been delayed, obfuscated and derailed. In the process, all sorts of spending cuts and tax increases got kicked further down the road. Now, a meaningful and consequential set is coming together in a rather disorderly fashion.