From Ezra Klein, at the Washington Post:
Bill Gross: Deficit reduction can — and should — wait
Bill Gross is the manager director of PIMCO, which makes him one of the most important bond traders in the world, if not the most important. And so his exit from the Treasury market a few months ago, plus his intense and very public concern over the deficit, has attracted a lot of concern. “Keep that in mind when you hear people arguing about austerity,” wrote Megan McArdle. “People like Bill Gross are the ones we ultimately need to convince, because they’re the ones whose defection will precipitate a crisis. And he’s not buying either supply-side claims that tax hikes will cause disaster, or the super-Keynesian argument that we can’t cut spending because the economy will contract so fast that we’ll actually end up with a bigger deficit.”
Or so we thought. But in an unusual mid-month note to his investors, Gross hammered the “anti-Keynesians” in both parties who believe “that fiscal conservatism equates to job growth.” The truth, he says, is just the opposite. “Fiscal balance alone will not likely produce 20 million jobs over the next decade. The move towards it, in fact, if implemented too quickly, could stultify economic growth.” […]
So what should we do? “Government must temporarily assume a bigger, not a smaller, role in this economy, if only because other countries are dominating job creation with kick-start policies that eventually dominate global markets.” But what about the deficit? “Deficits are important, but their immediate reduction can wait for a stronger economy and lower unemployment. Jobs are today’s and tomorrow’s immediate problem.”…
Gross’s credentials as a deficit hawk are unimpeachable, but he’s arguing here that, to be a deficit hawk over the long term, you need to be jobs-focused now, as no economy with 9 percent unemployment is going to achieve the growth necessary to get its deficit under control. And he’s right. The question is whether his call for the government to refocus on jobs and brush aside fantasies that deficit reduction is also job creation will get as much attention as his concerns about debt and deficits.
So: Next time the glibertarian co-worker or facebook friend-of-a-friend starts yammering about The Deficit, tell them that the Very Serious PIMCO Superstar wants the government to hire more people. The math demands it!
Also, in DougJ’s absence, it falls to me to point out that Megan McArdle stands fair to inherit Bill “Always Wrong” Kristol’s mantle for infailable inaccuracy, if only she can stop dithering about Himalayan pink salt and find some focus.