Thursday, 8 January 2015

How Reducing GDP Increases Economic Growth

By Joseph T. Salerno


Recently, the Financial Times published an article containing charts displaying the correlation between government spending and real GDP growth. Based on these correlations, the author of the article, Matthew Klein, comments: “It’s no secret that spending cuts (and tax hikes) have retarded America’s growth for the past four years.” He goes on to argue that from mid-2010 to mid-2011, the reduction in government spending in the US shaved 0.76 percent off of the economic growth rate. Klein conjectures that this slowdown in the growth rate caused a level of real GDP today that is 1.2 percent less than it would have been in the absence of this exercise in “austerity.” He also points out that since 2012 almost all of the depressive effect on real GDP growth of government austerity was the result of the reduction in military spending. While some of the reduction was beneficial, Klein opines, “some of it represents a self-inflicted wound.” Indeed it may represent a self-inflicted wound on the Federal government, but in that case it benefits the private economy.

Now it is certainly true that a reduction in real government spending causes a reduction in real GDP, as it is officially calculated. But contrary to Mr. Klein, the reduction in government spending does not retard the growth of production of goods that satisfy consumer demands and, in fact, most likely accelerates it. In addition, real incomes and living standards of producers/consumers in the private sector rise as a direct result of the decline in government spending. The reason for this seeming paradox lies in the conventional method used to calculate real output in the economy. Let me explain with a simple example.