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Business Economists Opposed US Deep Spending Cuts

March 4, 2013 (Associated Press) WASHINGTON - Many business economists in the U.S. opposed the deep spending cuts that took effect Friday amid the partisan fighting between President Barack Obama and Congress, but they overwhelmingly support efforts to reduce the country's massive deficit over the next 10 years, according to a survey released Monday.

The survey of 196 members of the National Association for Business Economics, taken from Jan. 21 to Feb. 13, gave some support to both sides in the budget debate.

Opposition Republicans' views won support, as 56 percent of the economists said deficit reduction should be achieved "only" or "mostly" with spending cuts. More than half, or 58 percent, said the cuts should be focused on entitlement programs, such as Social Security pensions and Medicare health aid.

Friday's cuts, however, were designed to be so unattractive that Obama and Congress would be forced to find an alternative. They didn't, which means agencies must chop the same rough percentage across the board, no matter their priority or how streamlined they were already.

Obama also got some backing, as most of the surveyed economists said spending cuts should be balanced by raising revenue through tax increases. Around 95 percent said Congress should reform the individual tax code, with 74 percent believing the reforms should "slightly" or "significantly" increase revenues.

Among other issues, more economists now believe the Obama administration should approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The percentage supporting such a plan grew to 78 percent in the latest poll, up from 69 percent previously.

The economists also had a better view of the troubles facing the euro zone, with 76 percent saying all 17 members of the European Monetary Union will still be members a year from now, compared to 47 percent who said so in the September survey

The economists were increasingly concerned that fiscal and monetary policy was too stimulating to the economy, which means they are worried that economy-boosting government spending and low interest rates could eventually result in damaging high inflation or an asset bubble.

On fiscal policy, only 35 percent felt the government's fiscal policy was "too restrictive," down from 43 percent in September, perhaps reflecting the improving economy since then, the NABE said.

The percentage who felt that monetary policy was "too stimulative" rose to 44 percent in the latest survey, up from 26 percent in September.

About 53 percent said that the monetary course Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has charted is "about right." That's down from 60 percent in the September survey.

The third round of quantitative easing, known as QE3, decided upon by the Federal Reserve in December, may have contributed to the view that its policy was too stimulating, the NABE said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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