Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn ….. said he was “still very cautious” on the US stock market and there would be a “day of reckoning” unless there was some sort of fiscal stimulus.
…..Icahn, who owned 45.8 million Apple shares at the end of last year, said China’s economic slowdown and worries about how China could become more prohibitive in doing business triggered his decision to exit his position entirely.
Icahn is right about fiscal stimulus. Easy money policies implemented by central banks around the globe are an effective tool to stem the flow when financial markets are hemorrhaging but they are not a long-term solution. The only effective means of halting the long-term, downward spiral is fiscal stimulus.
The biggest obstacle to fiscal stimulus is resistance to increasing public debt. There is good reason for this as wasteful deficit spending in the past has left taxpayers with a massive debt burden and nothing to show for it. Governments ran deficits to cover a shortfall in tax revenue or an increase in expenditure without thought as to how the debt would be repaid.
But if debt is used to fund investment in productive infrastructure, revenue from the asset can be used to pay off the debt over time, or the asset can be sold to repay the loan. There is an immediate double benefit to government, with increased wages — directly from infrastructure projects and indirectly from suppliers of goods and services — boosting tax revenues while also saving on unemployment benefits. The long-term benefit is retaining and developing skills in the economy that would otherwise be lost through long-term unemployment.
Politicians have a poor track record, however, when it comes to selecting productive infrastructure projects. Instead favoring projects that will garner the most votes. This can be improved by setting up a non-partisan planning and selection process with a long time horizon. Also partnership with the private sector would eliminate projects with weak or unpredictable revenue streams.
Partnerships with the private sector also help to leverage funds raised through public debt, limit cost overruns and contain on-going running costs. But both sides must have skin in the game.
To be effective, infrastructure programs must address the long-term needs of the economy and should be carried out on a broad, even global, scale to re-invigorate the faltering global economy.