Nell'ultima newsletter settimanale John Mauldin insiste sulla conseguenze dell'identità contabile alla quale si perviene dividendo l'economia di una nazione in tre parti: il settore privato, il settore pubblico e le esportazioni:
Domestic Private Sector Financial Balance + Governmental Fiscal Balance - the Current
Account Balance (or Trade Deficit/Surplus) = 0
By Domestic Private Sector Financial Balance we mean the net balance of businesses and consumers. Are they borrowing money or paying down debt? Government Fiscal Balance is the same: is the government borrowing or paying down debt? And the Current Account Balance is the trade deficit or surplus.
The implications are simple. The three items have to add up to zero. That means you cannot have surpluses in both the private and government sectors and run a trade deficit. You have to have a trade surplus. (...) Bottom line: you can run a trade deficit, reduce government debt, and reduce
private debt, but not all three at the same time. Choose two. Choose carefully.
Il punto fondamentale che solleva Mauldin è l'impossibilità di una riduzione del debito (leverage) simultanea nel settore pubblico e in quello privato in mancanza di un surplus della bilancia commerciale. E se si passa dall'analisi di una singola nazione all'analisi dell'economia globale allora le bilancie commerciali dei singoli paesi devono necessariamente sommarsi a zero e si ottiene l'impossibilità a livello globale di una simultanea riduzione del debito sia pubblico che privato.
Le conseguenze non sono troppo negative per i paesi che possono controllare la politica monetaria, come ad esempio l'Inghiliterra, per la quale è ragionevole attendersi che Because they have control of their currency and their debt, which is mostly in their own currency, they can devalue their way to a solution.
(Mauldin si spinge a prevedere un cambio dollaro/sterlina alla pari!)
I guai invece sono pressochè insormontabili per paesi come la Grecia, che non posso utilizzare la svalutazione della moneta per guadagnare in competitività e riequilibrare la bilancia commerciale:
We all know that Greek government deficits are somewhere around 14%. But their trade deficit is running north of 10%. (By comparison, the US trade deficit is now about 4%.)
Going back to the equation, if Greece wants to reduce its fiscal deficit by 11% over the next three years, then either private debt must increase or the trade deficit must drop sharply. That's the accounting rules.
But here's the problem. Greece cannot devalue its currency. It is (for now) stuck
with the euro. So, how can they make their products more competitive? How do they grow their way out of their problems? How do they become more productive relative to the rest of Europe and the world?
Barring some new productivity boost in olive oil and other agricultural produce,
there is no easy way. Since the creation of the euro in1999, Germany has become some 30% more productive than Greece. Very roughly, that means it costs 30% more in Greece to produce the same amount of goods. That is why Greece imports $64 billion and exports $21 billion.
What needs to happen for Greece to become more competitive? Labor costs must
fall by a lot. And not by just 10 or 15%. But if labor costs drop (deflation) then that means that taxes also drop. The government takes in less and GDP drops. The perverse situation is that the debt-to-GDP ratio gets worse, even as they enact their austerity measures.
In short, Greek lifestyles are on the line. They are going to fall. They have no
choice. They are going to have to willingly put themselves into a severe recession or, more realistically, a depression. (...)
What are their choices? They can simply default on the debt. Stop making any
payments. That means they cannot borrow any more money for a minimum of a few years (Argentina seemed to be able to come back fairly quickly after default), but it would go a long way toward balancing the government budget. Government employees would need to take large pay cuts, and there would be other large cuts in services. It would be a depression, but you work your way out of it. You are still in the euro and need to figure out how to become more competitive.
Qui mi pare che il ragionamento di Mauldin mostri i suoi limiti, visto che mi sembra poco probabile che una nazione che fa default sia ancora accettabile all'interno dell'area euro. Ma l'opzione dell'abbandono dell'euro benche' possa sembrare piu' verosimile conduce a uno scenario poco incoraggiante, visto che il debito estero rimarrebbe denominato in euro. In un editoriale il Wall Street Journal qualche tempo fa giungeva a conclusioni meno tetre per il futuro di questo paese.
La logica di Mauldin e' a mio avviso ineccepibile quando dall'analisi della Grecia passa a quella della Germania:
Germany is basically saying, you should be like us. And everyone wants to be.
But not everyone can.
Every country cannot run a trade surplus. Someone has to buy. But the
prescription that politicians want is for fiscal austerity and trade surpluses, at least for
European countries. That is the import of Martin Wolfe’s editorial we mentioned above.
He is as wired in as you get in Britain. And in a few short sentences he has laid out the formula Britain will pursue. Devalue and put your goods and services on sale. Figure out how to get to that surplus.
Germany has been thriving because much of Europe has been buying its goods. If
they are forced by circumstances to buy less, that will not be good for Germany. It’s all connected.
Yet politicians want to believe that somehow we can all run surpluses – at least in
their own countries. We can balance the budgets. We can reduce our private debts. We all want to believe in that mythical Lake Woebegone, where all the kids are above average.
Sadly, it just isn't possible for everyone to have a happy ending.
Quando dall'analisi dei guai dell'Europa passa a quella dei guai degli U.S.A. Mauldin si lancia in proposte provocatorie, che mi piacciono molto:
If the US is going to really attempt to balance the budget over time, reduce our
personal leverage, and save more, then we have to address the glaring fact that we import $300 billion in oil (give or take, depending on the price of oil).
This can only partially be done by offshore drilling. The real key is to reduce the
need for oil. Nuclear power, renewables, and a shift to electric cars will be most helpful.
Let us suggest something a little more radical. When the price of oil approached $4 a few years ago, Americans changed their driving and car-buying habits.
Perhaps we need to see the price of oil rise. What if we increased the price of oil
with an increase in gas taxes by 2 cents a gallon each and every month until the demand for oil dropped to the point where we did not need foreign oil? If we had European gasmileage standards, that would be the case now.
And take that 2 cents a month and dedicate it to fixing our infrastructure, which is badly in need of repair.