Saturday, March 9, 2013

Give Me A Double Shot of Krugman

Both good pieces. The first on why austerians in the US are wrong, the second on the damage austerity has done to the UK economy.   Surprise!  Contractionary policy is contractionary.  But they don't care about deficits. They care about keeping taxes low on rich people (with a side order of kicking the poors). 
Anyone who is serious (as opposed to Serious) about matters fiscal knows that it's highly misleading just to focus on the raw deficit numbers (ONE TRILLION DOLLARS), for two reasons.
First, fluctuations in the deficit tend to be driven by the business cycle; when the economy slumps, revenues fall and some kinds of expenditure, like unemployment benefits, rise. You want to take out these "automatic stabilizers" when assessing the underlying state of the budget.
Second, we don't have to balance the budget to have a sustainable fiscal position; all we need is to ensure that debt grows more slowly than GDP.
I was particularly struck by the way Cameron is still claiming that Britain's low interest rates show that his policy is successful and necessary. This is a bit like the high priest sacrificing a virgin once a month to ensure that the sun keeps rising, then claiming that the fact that the sun has risen proves that the sacrifice was indeed necessary. The obvious test is to compare Britain with other countries; if Britain's 2.07 percent bond yield validates his policies, does America's 2.05 percent yield validate Obama's? Or better yet, does France's 2.10 percent yield validate Hollande's? Or is the point, perhaps, that every country that borrows in its own currency (or, in the case of France, finally has a central bank willing to do its job by providing liquidity) can now borrow cheaply?

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