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June 25, 2012 at 15:55 PM EDT
Demand leakages- the 800lb economist in the room
I can’t say I’ve seen anyone in the deficit debates talking about the demand leakages? Not a mention in the mainstream press, financial news media, or any of the thousands of economic reports? That’s like discussing the right horsepower for a truck or an airplane without any consideration of the weight of the vehicle. Demand [...]

I can’t say I’ve seen anyone in the deficit debates talking about the demand leakages? Not a mention in the mainstream press, financial news media, or any of the thousands of economic reports?

That’s like discussing the right horsepower for a truck or an airplane without any consideration of the weight of the vehicle.

Demand leakages are unspent income. And if any agent doesn’t spend his income, some other agent has to spend more than his income or that much output doesn’t get sold.

And if the non govt sectors collectively don’t spend all of their income, it’s up to the govt to make sure its income is less than its spending, or that much output does’t get sold, which translates into what’s commonly called the ‘output gap’. Which is largely a sanitized way of saying unemployment.

And with the private sector necessarily pro cyclical, the (whopping) private sector spending gap in this economy can only be filled with by govt via either a (whopping) tax cut and/or spending increase, depending on your politics.

So why the ‘demand leakages’? The lion’s share is due to tax advantages for not spending your income, including pension contributions, IRA’s, and all kinds of corporate reserves. Then there’s foreign hoards accumulated to support foreign exporters. And it all should be a very good thing- net unspent income like that means that for a given size govt our taxes can be that much lower. Personally, I’d rather have a tax cut than a policy to get other people to spend their unspent income. But that’s just me…

And then there’s the fear mongering about the likes of the $200 trillion present value of US govt unfunded liabilities. But 0 mention of the present value of all demand leakages- that future income that will be unspent as it’s squirreled away in the likes of retirement plans, corporate reserves, and foreign central banks.

If history is any guide, the demand leakages will probably continue to outstrip even the so called ‘runaway spending of our irresponsible government,’ like they’ve always done in the past, as evidenced by nearly continuous output gaps/excess unemployment.

Worse, every mainstream economist learned that it’s the demand leakages that create the ‘need’ for govt deficits. But somehow fail to even mention it, even casually.

If anything, they voice no objections to the popular misconception that we need more savings to have funds for investment, thereby tacitly supporting the call for higher levels of demand leaks and the need for even higher levels of govt deficit spending.

And all you hear are calls for deficit reduction, both public and private, all in the face of geometrically expanding demand leakages.

Am I missing something?

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