Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Deficit Fear Mongering

Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman argues against the deficit scare zeitgeist in Washington in The New York Times.

Yes, we’ll want to reduce deficits once the economy recovers, and there are gratifying signs that a solid recovery is finally under way. But unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, is still unacceptably high. “The boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity,” John Maynard Keynes declared many years ago. He was right — all you have to do is look at Europe to see the disastrous effects of austerity on weak economies. And this is still nothing like a boom.
Now, I’m aware that the facts about our dwindling deficit are unwelcome in many quarters. Fiscal fearmongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to do what they really want, namely dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. People whose careers are heavily invested in the deficit-scold industry don’t want to let evidence undermine their scare tactics; as the deficit dwindles, we’re sure to encounter a blizzard of bogus numbers purporting to show that we’re still in some kind of fiscal crisis.
Ezra Klein agrees on Bloomberg.com.
Today’s deficits are, if anything, too small. Yes, I said it. Too. Small. We’ve seen real, clear damage from spending cutbacks -- if public employment had remained steady since 2008, unemployment would be down to about 7.1 percent -- and the world is begging us to borrow more money. In fact, they’re paying us to borrow more money; real interest rates on Treasury debt have, amazingly, turned negative. We should accept the world’s generous, limited-time offer. This is the moment to pass a big tax cut for employers who hire new workers, to rebuild our infrastructure at bargain- basement rates, and to help state and local governments reverse the deep cuts they’ve made in recent years. It’s not the moment to begin sequestration.

Interestingly, so does former Reagan and G.H.W. Bush economist Bruce Bartlett.

I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

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