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NEW YORK – The global economy, artificially boosted since the recession of 2008-2009 by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus and financial bailouts, is headed towards a sharp slowdown this year as the effect of these measures wanes. Worse yet, the fundamental excesses that fueled the crisis – too much debt and leverage in the private sector (households, banks and other financial institutions, and even much of the corporate sector) – have not been addressed.
Private-sector deleveraging has barely begun. Moreover, there is now massive re-leveraging of the public sector in advanced economies, with huge budget deficits and public-debt accumulation driven by automatic stabilizers, counter-cyclical Keynesian fiscal stimulus, and the immense costs of socializing the financial system’s losses.
At best, we face a protracted period of anemic, below-trend growth in advanced economies as deleveraging by households, financial institutions, and governments starts to feed through to consumption and investment. At the global level, the countries that spent too much – the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, and elsewhere – now need to deleverage and are spending, consuming, and importing less.
But countries that saved too much – China, emerging Asia, Germany, and Japan – are not spending more to compensate for the fall in spending by deleveraging countries. Thus, the recovery of global aggregate demand will be weak, pushing global growth much lower.
The global slowdown – already evident in second-quarter data for 2010 – will accelerate in the second half of the year. Fiscal stimulus will disappear as austerity programs take hold in most countries. Inventory adjustments, which boosted growth for a few quarters, will run their course. The effects of tax policies that stole demand from the future – such as incentives for buyers of cars and homes – will diminish as programs expire. Labor-market conditions remain weak, with little job creation and a spreading sense of malaise among consumers.