Commentary: God has no deficit
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Published: 06-May-2020

The Oklahoma legislature faces an estimated $1.3 billion dollar revenue shortfall due to falling oil prices, reduced sales tax and fuel tax collections, and COVID-19. The state will receive an estimated $800 million from the federal government through the COVID-19 stimulus bill, which could help plug some holes, but even with that money it appears budget cuts are looming.

House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said the state has lost more than 18 percent of its total revenue and cuts to state agencies could range from 3-10 percent. The Oklahoma Constitution requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget, so it will be challenging times at 23rd and Lincoln this month. (NOTE: The Legislature made a start this week, with leadership announcing plans to press a new budget through the process.) 

The federal government is not constrained by a balanced budget amendment, so deficit spending is the norm. With the passage of the stimulus bill, the federal budget deficit this year will be $2 trillion dollars and the national debt will top $25 trillion. With record unemployment and the economy in the tank, deficit spending makes sense in the short term, but spending money you don’t have will have long term impact on future generations.  

In 1929, the U.S. stock market collapsed, banks and businesses failed and unemployment was 25 percent. Demand for goods and services declined and supply was reduced.
The Federal Reserve, which has been created in 1912 for the purpose of providing the nation a more stable monetary system, raised interest rates to limit speculation in securities markets.

That backfired and caused panic and reduced demand further. President Herbert Hoover tried to keep the federal budget balanced until 1932. He believed in the economic system called Liquidationism, and that no government action should be taken during an economic downturn. Liquidationism holds the ‘temporary pain’ of companies being liquidated is a solution in itself and government should stay out of the way.

Eventually Hoover did acquiesce to pressure to provide relief to citizens and agreed to a deficit budget, but he remained firm in not baling out private companies.  

In 2020, the Federal Reserve is firmly in control of our economy (good and bad). The interest rate is set by the Fed.  Monetary supply (money to be loaned) is controlled by the Fed. Congress and President Trump have already shown they are willing to deficit spend to get through this crisis. There is not the political will or public support to allow the economy to suffer ‘temporary pain.’ 
This crisis will have an impact on how people live in the future.  

Here are three predictions of change:

First, the world’s eating habits will change.  More food will be consumed at home- less at restaurants. That has been the recent trend. In 2018, Americans ate out 185 times a year, down from a high of 216 in 2000. That’s good news for grocers, not so much for restaurants.  

Second, retirement plans will change.  With the stock market losing up to 30 percent of its value during this crisis, some will have to delay retirement or forego it all together. Those who are retired and relying on investment income will have to make adjustments to their lifestyle or go back to work.  

Third, the next generation will change. The COVID-19 crisis is a part of their experience. How they will work, play, invest, worship, interact, and vote will be filtered through the experience. 
That can be good and bad. The good is they will understand that life is fragile and they should cherish it. The bad is they may believe life is so fragile; they live it like a dare-devil.
Deficits and shortfalls are all around us, but God is still in control and has no deficit or shortfall.  
Stay safe!

Note: Steve Fair  writes a column that appears regularly in many Oklahoma newspapers, at the CapitolBeatOK website, and occasionally in The City Sentinel newspaper. Steve is also Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party.  He can be reached by email at okgop@aol.com.  His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.

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