Greg Ip: The fiscal clifflet

From Greg Ip

(…) Here’s the real threat. Even if the Bush tax cuts are extended and the sequester delayed, a huge amount of fiscal drag remains in place. They include the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the expiration of extended unemployment insurance benefits, imposition of a new 3.8% Medicare investment tax on the wealthy, and the bite to discretionary spending embedded in the Budget Control Act and prior continuing resolutions. ISI Group projects $220 billion of fiscal tightening in 2013, or 1.4% of GDP. JPMorgan, noting that many Recovery Act programmes are rolling off at the same time, puts the hit at a slightly higher $266 billion, or 1.7% of GDP.

The IMF reckons fiscal policy will tighten more in America next year than in Spain, Italy or Portugal. Though smaller than the full fiscal cliff, the fiscal clifflet still poses a significant headwind to the economy. If enough other bad stuff is going on, it could push the economy back into recession.