The economic news has been better lately. New claims for unemployment insurance are down; business and consumer surveys suggest solid growth. We’re still near the bottom of a very deep hole, but at least we’re climbing.There is much more. Go read the original article. The tragic fact is that Krugman is a smart guy -- won a Nobel prize -- yet nobody in any administration listens to him. Instead Obama has put the very people who caused the economic mess back in charge. Why? Because they paid him good money. The Wall Street crowd has bought and paid for Obama just like the bought and paid for Bush, Clinton, the previous Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, etc., etc. It is a very long story of corrupt politics.
It’s too bad that so many people, mainly on the political right, want to send us sliding right back down again.
Before we get to that, let’s talk about why economic recovery has been so long in coming.
Some economists expected a rapid bounce-back once we were past the acute phase of the financial crisis — what I think of as the oh-God-we’re-all-gonna-die period — which lasted roughly from September 2008 to March 2009. But that was never in the cards. The bubble economy of the Bush years left many Americans with too much debt; once the bubble burst, consumers were forced to cut back, and it was inevitably going to take them time to repair their finances. And business investment was bound to be depressed, too. Why add to capacity when consumer demand is weak and you aren’t using the factories and office buildings you have?
The only way we could have avoided a prolonged slump would have been for government spending to take up the slack. But that didn’t happen: growth in total government spending actually slowed after the recession hit, as an underpowered federal stimulus was swamped by cuts at the state and local level.
Krugman has the right diagnosis of the problem and very clearly sees the threat posed by the Republicans and their "voodoo economics":
The clear and present danger to recovery, however, comes from politics — specifically, the demand from House Republicans that the government immediately slash spending on infant nutrition, disease control, clean water and more. Quite aside from their negative long-run consequences, these cuts would lead, directly and indirectly, to the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs — and this could short-circuit the virtuous circle of rising incomes and improving finances.Here is the tragedy of Republican economic nostrums:
Of course, Republicans believe, or at least pretend to believe, that the direct job-destroying effects of their proposals would be more than offset by a rise in business confidence. As I like to put it, they believe that the Confidence Fairy will make everything all right.
Over the next few weeks, House Republicans will try to blackmail the Obama administration into accepting their proposed spending cuts, using the threat of a government shutdown. They’ll claim that those cuts would be good for America in both the short term and the long term.It is amusing to watch other countries and civilizations walk the plank following a madman leader or in devotion to a crazed philosophy, but it is tragic to see the world around you distorted and crashing because the very people around you fall prey to idiotic economic "theories" and the corrupt and cynical manipulations of rich people more interested in their own pocketbook than the health of the overall society. Tragic.
But the truth is exactly the reverse: Republicans have managed to come up with spending cuts that would do double duty, both undermining America’s future and threatening to abort a nascent economic recovery.
Relevant to this topic is a January article in the UK's Guardian newspaper by Dean Baker. Here's the key bit:
Three months ago, I noted that the United States might benefit from the pain being suffered by the citizens of the United Kingdom. The reason was the new coalition government's commitment to prosperity through austerity. As predicted, this looks very much like a path to pain and stagnation, not healthy growth.
That's bad news for the citizens of the United Kingdom. They will be forced to suffer through years of unnecessarily high unemployment. They will also have to endure cutbacks in support for important public services like healthcare and education.
But the pain for the people in England could provide a useful example for the United States. After failing to see the $8tn housing bubble that wrecked the US economy, the austerity crew in the United States has been newly emboldened by the hugely partisan media that desperately want to eviscerate the country's bedrock social programmes: social security and Medicare.
The elite media and the politicians whom they promote would love to see the United States follow the austerity path of the UK's new government. However, if this path takes the UK into dangerous economic waters, it could provide a powerful warning to the public in the United States before we make the same mistake.
The British economy looks like it is doing its part. The fourth-quarter GDP report showing that the economy went into reverse and shrank at a 2.0% annual rate is exactly the sort of warning that many of us here were expecting. Weather-related factors may have slowed growth some, but you would have to do some serious violence to the data to paint a positive picture. Of course, the austerity in the UK is just beginning. There will likely be much worse pain to come, with a real possibility that the country will experience a double-dip recession, or at least a prolonged period of stagnation.
While the UK seems to be doing its part, the key question is whether anyone in the United States is prepared to take the lesson.