Friday, December 30, 2011

An Indictment of Obama and Most Western Governments

Here is Paul Krugman in a NY Times op-ed laying bare the open secret: Obama and European governments are contemptuous of Keynes, rejecting his advise, and imperiling the tenuous "recovery" that countries have been experiencing by calling for "deficit reduction" which is just another name for austerity:
“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy — which had been steadily recovering up to that point — into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.

... the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans — and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits.

This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to the ideology that dominates much of our political discourse. In March 2011, the Republican staff of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee released a report titled “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy.” It ridiculed concerns that cutting spending in a slump would worsen that slump, arguing that spending cuts would improve consumer and business confidence, and that this might well lead to faster, not slower, growth.
Sadly a generation will pay the price for this obtuse ideological refusal to accept standard economics in favour if the idiocies of right wing economics that created the deregulation fiasco leading to the S&L crisis, the bust, and the 2008 financial crisis. These are the failures of government by right wing politicians who have sold the public on the idea that "government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem". For 30 years bad ideas pushed by right wing politicians have enriched the ultra-rich while the bottom 99% have been left to tread water. Wealth has increased but "trickle down" economics delivered nothing to the poor who are poorer now than since the Great Depression when the lot of the poor was to live in Hoovervilles and stand in bread lines.

The common people need to rise up and say "enough!" and vote in politicians who want to grow the economy for the benefit of the 99% and who want to see a profound redistribution of income so that those who work hard in the 99% get the kind of rewards that for the last 30+ years have only flowed to the ultra-rich. Stop the privatization of government for the bottom 99% with the cutting of services and the raising of "hidden" taxes. Stop the socialization of government for the top 1% with the quiet fraud that lets the rich milk the poor, demand and get sweetheart deals from government, and the continued policy of handouts and bailouts and tax cuts and special tax loop holes for those who can buy government via lobbyists.

Krugman perfectly characterizes the failures of politics today:
We entered 2011 amid dire warnings about a Greek-style debt crisis that would happen as soon as the Federal Reserve stopped buying bonds, or the rating agencies ended our triple-A status, or the superdupercommittee failed to reach a deal, or something. But the Fed ended its bond-purchase program in June; Standard & Poor’s downgraded America in August; the supercommittee deadlocked in November; and U.S. borrowing costs just kept falling. In fact, at this point, inflation-protected U.S. bonds pay negative interest: investors are willing to pay America to hold their money.

The bottom line is that 2011 was a year in which our political elite obsessed over short-term deficits that aren’t actually a problem and, in the process, made the real problem — a depressed economy and mass unemployment — worse.
For three years the political right has been screaming "inflation" and called for austerity to stop the devaluation of "fiat money". In truth, there has been no runaway inflation despite the trillions that the Federal Reserve has pumped into the monetary system.

Keynes called for a coordinated fight on both the monetary and fiscal fronts to fight depression. But since 2008 there has been only a monetary policy in place that is now being withdrawn and there was a very, very small fiscal policy with Obama's 2009 stimulus package. The tools that Keynes outlined have not been used. That is why the Great Recession continues to plague the United States.

No comments: