Working ahead of year-end tax hikes, individuals shifted so much money to the fourth quarter at the 35 percent top rate that personal income grew by 7.9 percent annually — a huge number. And there’s more: In order to beat the taxman, dividend income rose 85.2 percent annually. You think tax incentives don’t matter? Guess again.
Now, all this private-sector strength occurred despite the fact that government spending — namely, military spending — dropped 6.6 percent. Inventories also lost ground, and the trade deficit widened.
But here’s a key point: Military spending has now fallen virtually to its lower sequester-spending-cut baseline. It did so in one quarter by about $40 billion. So the brunt of the impact over the coming years has already been felt. (Normally, as of recent years, military spending has been virtually flat.)
Which leads me to another key point: Even with the fourth-quarter contraction, the latest GDP report shows that falling government spending can coexist with rising private economic activity. This is an important point in terms of the upcoming spending sequester. Lower federal spending, limited government and a smaller spending-to-GDP ratio will be good for growth. The military spending plunge will not likely be repeated. But by keeping resources in private hands, rather than transferring them to the inefficient government sector, the spending sequester is actually pro-growth.
Big-government Keynesians think big spending provides big growth. They are wrong. This has been a 2 percent recovery — the worst in modern times — dating back to 1947. So let’s try something different. Let’s shrink government. Let’s let the private sector breathe and generate entrepreneurship and risk-taking.