California nightmare for the global economy?
Will the California budget crisis tip the United States into recession? The California economy is certainly large enough to inflict such damage. It's the seventh-largest economy in the world and home to close to 38 million Americans.
California's budget deficit is by any reasonable measure enormous. This budget deficit is estimated at $17.2 billion and represents more than 17 percent of the state's general fund expenditures (about $101 billion). In contrast, New York, which faces the second-worst budget gap in the nation for fiscal year 2009, has a gap of about $5 billion, which represents less than 10 percent of its budget.
In closing its past budgetary gaps, California has acted more like the federal government rather than merely one of 50 states. Indeed, unlike the federal government (or sovereign nations), each state is required to balance its budget each year; and no state, at least in principle, has the authority to engage in the kind of discretionary deficit spending both the federal government and nations around the world routinely use to stimulate their economies.
In the past, a profligate California has gotten around this balanced-budget requirement by using a technique that effectively allows the Golden State to administer its own fiscal stimulus. In particular, California - under both Democratic and Republican governors - has simply issued new bonds every time that it has spent far beyond its means.
California's problem this time, however, is that its deficit is so big, its balance sheet is so bad, and world credit markets are so tight that issuing new bonds alone is no longer a viable option. Instead, California's politicians are inexorably being forced toward a solution that will prominently feature both a large tax increase and significant spending cuts.
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This article appeared on page B - 11 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Peter Navarro is a professor at the Merage School of Business, UC Irvine, and author of "Coming China Wars." www.PeterNavarro.com.