'Compromis fiscal cliff is half werk'

De last-minute deal in het Congress halveert de fiscal cliff. Economische tegenwind op korte termijn is voorkomen, maar er resteert nog veel werk om de staatsschuld en het tekort op lange termijn op te lossen.

Maarten van der Pas 03 januari, 2013 | 9:38

Het compromis over de fiscal cliff dat het Amerikaanse Congress tenauwernood bereikte is half werk. Dat zegt Morningstar-econoom Bob Johnson. Bekijk de video waarin Johnson zijn visie op de deal geeft, ingaat op de problemen die nog resteren en de gevolgen voor de Amerikaanse economie.

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar.

Congress was able to come to a last-minute deal to avert most of the fiscal cliff, at least some of it temporarily, but what's still left to do? There is plenty of work.

Here to offer his insight is Morningstar director of economic analysis Bob Johnson.

Bob, thanks for being here.

Bob Johnson: Nice to be here.

Stipp: Congress did manage to get to a last-minute deal to avert a lot of what was in that original fiscal cliff. Let's first talk about the things they removed from the cliff that won't be headwinds on the economy in the next year. There are a few items they managed to get done.

Johnson: Yes. The unemployment extension, they left that in there. They felt that maybe there were people who were going to suddenly have nothing … as many as 2 million people, and they decided maybe that was a little bit too much. So, they managed to extend the unemployment, so that disappeared from the cliff.

[Tax cuts for the non-wealthy] got extended. That was the biggest worry about the fiscal cliff, and I always projected that was never, ever going to happen, and it did not. So that was removed from the cliff.

Medicare payments to doctors, which is always in debate every year, we didn't go over the cliff on that.

The alternative minimum tax: They actually I think fixed that one permanently. I think they put the number in there and put an annual inflation rate in there. So, the AMT, which was a huge part of the cliff for both 2012 and '13, went away [for the large group of taxpayers who would have been susceptible without fixing the inflation patch].

So, they took the worst of the stuff out of the cliff.

Stipp: And there was also some business tax credits that they removed from the cliff, and those will still stay in effect, but not necessarily forever?

Johnson: Yes. My quick reading of the numbers we got from the CBO was, it looks like it's a one-year extension on [items] like the R&D tax credit. There are a number of, for lack of better words, corporate welfare-type tax breaks that were in there that are very popular individually. Who doesn't like R&D? And they are very popular, and they total a fair amount over a full year--maybe $85 billion--and they've extended every one of them, kind of across the board, for one more year. And some they actually parceled out, a very small group, energy [tax credits] they parceled off for permanency.

Stipp: So, those business leaders can now depend on those at least for the next coming year, but there's still going to be some uncertainty as we approach year-end about whether these will get extended or not. So, it increases the visibility a little bit, and potentially the confidence a little bit, for businesses, but not indefinitely into the future at this point, in most cases.

Johnson: Absolutely.

Stipp: So, these were things that were going to go into effect [on Jan. 1] that are not going to go into effect as part of the fiscal cliff because of this deal that they reached.

But some things they didn't reach a deal on--they kind of kicked the can a few months down the road--and other things they allowed to just expire. So, let's talk about what's still in the smaller cliff--maybe it's more like a fiscal hill or a steep fiscal hill at this point. What's still in there? What didn't they address yet? And what did they allow to just go ahead and expire?

Johnson: Well, let's set a little bit of a framework, and I'm going to use the Congressional Budget Office numbers. I've used some other ones that are a little bit more annualized, but let's start with the fiscal numbers that are from the Congressional Budget Office.

The original cliff as they saw it, excluding any effects on the economy that self-feed, they said $600 billion was the amount of the cliff. And now they're saying the cliff is only $300 billion. So, they've really cut it in half.

A way to think about the $300 billion that's left on the cliff, we took away the payroll tax, which amounts to about $110 billion.

Stipp: [You mean] the payroll tax credit or the payroll tax cut...

Johnson: Right.

Stipp: … that was put in place during the recession, so that's gone. So, people will be paying higher payroll taxes on Social Security.

Johnson: Absolutely, everybody across the board, no exceptions, 2% more in that nasty payroll tax. That's part of the cliff we went over, and that will impact spending in the next year ahead. That's a dollar-and-cents number that affects everybody at the bottom of the curve and the upper end of the curve, so it's a big deal.


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Over de auteur Maarten van der Pas

Maarten van der Pas  is Financial Markets Editor bij Morningstar Benelux