By James Pethokoukis
The opinions expressed are his own.
Reuters invited leading economists to reply to Larry Summers’ ope-d on his reaction to the debt ceiling deal. We will be publishing the responses here. Below is Reuters Breakingviews columnist James Pethokoukis’ reply. Here are responses from Laura Tyson, James Hamilton, Robert Frank, Russ Roberts, Benn Steil and Donald Boudreaux as well.
Like Larry Summers, I have a “multifaceted reaction” to Washington’s debt ceiling and budget deal. In fact, I have the exact same multifaceted reaction, except driven by completely different rationales.
1. Like Summers, I feel relief — but not because the agreement averted default and avoided harsh austerity. While the package doesn’t fundamentally change America’s fatal fiscal trajectory, it keeps the legislative momentum headed in the right direction with a focus on reducing debt via spending cuts rather than tax increases.
Nor do I think the process was some sort of “shabby spectacle.” The democratic process is always messy, and frequently driven by a sense of crisis. But it was designed to prevent tyranny; not to promote efficiency. And the recent House ban on earmarks ensured much of the haggling revolved around policy rather than political favors.
2. Likewise, I am cynical — but not about the nature of the debt deal. Future editions of Congress and the economic cycle will have great say about how much America taxes and spends in coming years. Fiscal norms are being set and attitudes changed now, such as when Congress rejected President Barack Obama’s recent budget 97-0. The new budget deal is part of that ongoing evolution.