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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives
Pete Peterson is back, and his message and rhetoric are always the same. The federal budget deficit is a disaster and – any day now – will produce massive inflation. Peterson has written his 20,000th version of this fantasy in the NYT with Paul Volcker. The first rhetorical game that Paulson plays is to assert that it is bad for a sovereign nation to run budgetary deficits because they are not “sound and sustainable.” Except that the U.S. has run deficits for most of its existence without ever suffering hyper-inflation. For a nation like the U.S. with a sovereign currency, a federal budgetary deficit is not unsound and it is not unsustainable. Federal budget deficits can, depending on the circumstances, be the very definition of “sound” fiscal policy – a policy that is often essential for “sustainable” recovery and growth of the economy.
Peterson asserts that his latest warning of fiscal disaster might, for the first time in his career be correct. Peterson claims that this time his warnings are real because the “widely respected” Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says its model predicts a growing deficit. The CBO is not “widely respected” by economists. It uses macroeconomic models that produce nonsense results. Economists know that the CBO models cannot predict reality because they were constructed out of ideological nostrums that have repeatedly been proven false by reality. The CBO has gotten credit in the past from Democrats because it declined to use even more flawed “dynamic scoring” models favored by many Republicans that falsely predict that tax cuts lead to magical, spectacular growth.