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Lionel Laurent

Globalization’s Winners Are Prime Pandemic Tax Targets

The fight over how to pay for the recovery has begun, and it will spill over into geopolitics and cross-border trade.

A moving target for cash-strapped governments.

A moving target for cash-strapped governments.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Governments of all political stripes are spending massive sums to overcome the twin challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic — the virus itself, and the recession it’s leaving in its wake — and rightly so. Some $9 trillion in emergency public spending has been rolled out so far, while global borrowing via bonds and loans hit a record high of $2.6 trillion in April. Financial markets have taken this broadly in their stride.

Eventually, though, the question of who will ultimately foot the bill will need to be answered — particularly outside of the U.S., which is relatively protected by the dollar’s global clout. Some assume a future economic rebound will be strong enough to comfortably repay debts over time while central banks keep rates low. But this is a hope, not a guarantee. The risk of lower growth and higher rates is real, necessitating all sorts of painful budget choices, as economist Willem Buiter wrote last month.