Podcast | Thought on the Market

Michael Zezas: Short-Term vs. Long-Term Deficit

Morgan Stanley
Banking, Finance, Investment Strategies

‘Build Back Better’ has gained support from all corners of the Democratic Party, but questions remain over how the framework is paid for. For investors, a look at short term dynamics may provide clarity.

—– Transcript —–

Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I’m Michael Zezas, head of public policy research and municipal strategy for Morgan Stanley. Along with my colleagues bringing you a variety of perspectives, I’ll be talking about the intersection between U.S. public policy and financial markets. It’s Tuesday, November 2nd at noon in New York.

Over the past few days, the “Build Back Better” framework has gained increasing support from all corners of the Democratic Party. And although Senator Joe Manchin put his support for the framework in question yesterday, and there are still some questions on items such as prescription drug reform, our base case is still that “Build Back Better” and the bipartisan infrastructure bill will likely be enacted before year end.

However, still up for debate is whether “Build Back Better” is fully paid for by things like stronger IRS tax enforcement and tax increases on corporations. In its current form, the framework proposes fiscal balance, but over 10 years. In the short term, it doesn’t mean zero fiscal expansion.

Rather as structured, we think the bill would add to deficits over the first five years but get to balance by having surpluses over the remaining years. This distinction is important, and we argue that investors should focus on the early-year deficit dynamic instead of the 10-year deficit language that Congress generally uses to communicate deficit impact.

One reason is that policy uncertainty usually increases with time. For example, several spending and contra-revenue programs including a child tax credit, expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies, and state and local tax cap relief, roll off well before the 10-year look-ahead period ends. And U.S. elections in 2022 and 2024 could conceivably result in changes to government that could mean the continuation or discontinuation of programs and new tax items.

Given this uncertainty and the estimated $256 billion dollar deficit for the bipartisan infrastructure bill — the takeaway for investors is that we expect bond markets will focus on this early-year dynamic since this is the time frame that ultimately impacts GDP forecast horizons, impacts the Treasury supply forecast horizon and is reliable from a policy standpoint.

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