"Global worries over US stimulus spending" (NY Times)
Few people attending the World Economic Forum question the need to kick-start America’s economy, the world’s largest, with a package that could reach $1 trillion over two years. But the long-term fallout from increased borrowing by the United Stated government, and its potential to drive up inflation and interest rates around the world, seems to getting more attention here than in Washington.
“The U.S. needs to show some proof they have a plan to get out of the fiscal problem,” said Ernesto Zedillo, the former Mexican president who helped steer his country through a financial crisis in 1994. “We, as developing countries, need to know we won’t be crowded out of the capital markets, which is already happening.”...
“There aren’t that many safe havens,” said Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton economist who is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve in Washington, explaining why the dollar’s status as a reserve currency is unlikely to be threatened.
Instead, it is the dollar’s long-term value against other currencies that is vulnerable. “At some point, there may be so much Treasury debt, that investors may start wondering if they are overloaded in dollar assets,” Mr. Blinder said...
“Even before Obama walked through the White House door, there were plans for $1 trillion of new debt,” said Niall Ferguson, a Harvard historian who has studied borrowing and its impact on national power. He now estimates that some $2.2 trillion in new government debt will be issued this year, assuming the stimulus plan is approved.
“You either crowd out other borrowers or you print money,” Mr. Ferguson added. “There is no way you can have $2.2 trillion in borrowing without influencing interest rates or inflation in the long-term.”
Mr. Ferguson was particularly struck by the new borrowing because the roots of the current crisis lay in an excess of American debt at all levels, from homeowners to Wall Street banks.
“This is a crisis of excessive debt, which reached 355 percent of American gross domestic product,” he said. “It cannot be solved with more debt.”
While Mr. Ferguson is a skeptic of the Keynesian thinking behind President Obama’s plan — rather than borrowing and spending to stimulate the economy, he favors corporate tax cuts — even supporters of the plan like Mr. Zedillo and Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley have called on the White House to quickly address how it will pay for the spending in the long-term.
“It’s huge,” Mr. Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, said. “President Obama has now laid out a scenario of multiyear, trillion-dollar deficits.”
The stimulus is widely expected to pass, but once it does, Mr. Roach said the focus would shift to “who foots the bill and what is the exit strategy. We don’t have the answer to either question.”
"Exit strategy." Wow. The Iraq War analogies are already starting. I think investors are overloaded on dollar assets, by the way.
UPDATE: David Brooks observes that the stimulus plan has "abandoned the [Larry] Summers parameters" and has "no fiscal exit strategy." Opposition to the bill in its current form is coming from Alice Rivlin, Bill Clinton's former budget director.