The high level of current account imbalances continues to be a major focus of international concern. In this paper I suggest why public and private actions in the United States and China are now likely to cause the current account imbalances in those countries to shrink and perhaps even to disappear in the next few years. If that happens, it will eliminate the largest current account imbalances in the global economy. The United States now has a current account deficit of about $500 billion or 3.5 percent of US GDP. China has a current account surplus of about $300 billion or 6 percent of its GDP.
Although natural market forces should resolve such imbalances without the need for specific government policies, the government actions in both countries have actually contributed to their persistence and prevented market forces from correcting the problem. That may be about to change.
This paper analyzes a new way of reducing the major individual tax expenditures: capping the total amount that tax expenditures as a whole can reduce each individual's tax burden. More specifically, we examine the effect of limiting the total value of the tax reduction resulting from tax expenditures to two percent of the individual's adjusted gross income. Each individual can benefit from the full range of tax expenditures but can receive tax reduction only up to 2 percent of his AGI.
Simulations using the NBER TAXSIM model project that a 2 percent cap would raise $278 billion in 2011. The paper analyzes the revenue increases by AGI class. The 2 percent cap would also cause substantial simplification by inducing more than 35 million taxpayers to shift from itemizing their deductions to using the standard deduction. For any taxpayer for whom the 2 percent cap is binding, a cap would reduce the volume of wasteful spending and the associated deadweight loss. Even for those taxpayers for whom the cap is not binding but who are induced by the cap to shift from itemizing to using the standard deduction, the deadweight loss associated with deductible expenditures would be completely eliminated
The real trade weighted value of the dollar fell 11 percent against the Federal Reserve Bank’s index of major currencies during the 12 months through May 2011 and 31 percent during the past ten years. Four strong market forces are likely to cause further declines over the next several years: a portfolio rebalancing by major international investors who regard their portfolios as overweight dollars, the large US current account deficit, a Chinese policy to raise consumption, and interest rate differences that make dollar investments less attractive.
A declining dollar could have a powerful positive effect on the short-run performance of the American economy by raising exports (now more than $1.3 trillion) and inducing American consumers to shift from imports to American made products and services. Without a boost to demand from an increase in net exports, the U.S. recovery is likely to remain weak and could run out of steam.
There are of course also negative effects of a falling dollar: reducing the real value of any given level of personal incomes by raising the cost to households of the imported products that they consume and creating inflationary pressures as import prices rise.