Monday, January 30, 2012

Willful Ignorance

Here is a bit from a NY Times op-ed by Paul Krugman that slams what he calls "the serious people", the ideological right, that has called for austerity as the magic elixir for recovering from the worldwide George Bush-induced Depression:
How could the economy thrive when unemployment was already high, and government policies were directly reducing employment even further? Confidence! “I firmly believe,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet — at the time the president of the European Central Bank, and a strong advocate of the doctrine of expansionary austerity — “that in the current circumstances confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery, because confidence is the key factor today.”

Such invocations of the confidence fairy were never plausible; researchers at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere quickly debunked the supposed evidence that spending cuts create jobs. Yet influential people on both sides of the Atlantic heaped praise on the prophets of austerity, Mr. Cameron in particular, because the doctrine of expansionary austerity dovetailed with their ideological agendas.

Thus in October 2010 David Broder, who virtually embodied conventional wisdom, praised Mr. Cameron for his boldness, and in particular for “brushing aside the warnings of economists that the sudden, severe medicine could cut short Britain’s economic recovery and throw the nation back into recession.” He then called on President Obama to “do a Cameron” and pursue “a radical rollback of the welfare state now.”

Strange to say, however, those warnings from economists proved all too accurate. And we’re quite fortunate that Mr. Obama did not, in fact, do a Cameron.

Which is not to say that all is well with U.S. policy. True, the federal government has avoided all-out austerity. But state and local governments, which must run more or less balanced budgets, have slashed spending and employment as federal aid runs out — and this has been a major drag on the overall economy. Without those spending cuts, we might already have been on the road to self-sustaining growth; as it is, recovery still hangs in the balance.

And we may get tipped in the wrong direction by Continental Europe, where austerity policies are having the same effect as in Britain, with many signs pointing to recession this year.

The infuriating thing about this tragedy is that it was completely unnecessary. Half a century ago, any economist — or for that matter any undergraduate who had read Paul Samuelson’s textbook “Economics” — could have told you that austerity in the face of depression was a very bad idea. But policy makers, pundits and, I’m sorry to say, many economists decided, largely for political reasons, to forget what they used to know. And millions of workers are paying the price for their willful amnesia.
The tragedy is that policy makers and right wing economists prefer lies and "the confidence fairy" more than the simple truth and hard won economic truths. The economics profession has shown itself to be in the hands of charlatans who are willing to corrupt truths won from the Great Depression experience in order to push a political agenda. Tragic!

As always it is the bottom 99% who die when the 1% "generals" order a charge into an open field where they are gunned down by withering machine gun fire (aka reality). But the generals blame the troops and order up another charge. The 99% are expendable. Everybody knows that the 1% are the "cream of society" and must be protected in their ideological bubble at all costs.

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