Round 1. Too bad it doesn’t matter who has the best arguments..
Rereading my post on the folly of the G20, it seems to me that I didn’t fully convey just how crazy the demand for fiscal austerity now now now really is.
The key thing you need to realize is that eliminating stimulus spending, while it would inflict severe economic harm, would do almost nothing to reduce future debt problems. Here’s the IMF’s estimate of sources of the growth in debt over the next few years:
And even this figure conveys a misleading impression of the importance of stimulus spending. First, since cutting stimulus would weaken the economy, it would reduce revenues — that is, a substantial part of the debt growth the IMF attributes to stimulus would have happened even without stimulus, through lower revenue. Second, for the US at least the core reason for long-run budget concern is rising health care costs — in fact, health cost control is the sine qua non of long-run solvency — which has nothing whatever to do with how much we spend on job creation now.
So how much we spend on supporting the economy in 2010 and 2011 is almost irrelevant to the fundamental budget picture. Why, then, are Very Serious People demanding immediate fiscal austerity?
The answer is, to reassure the markets — because the markets supposedly won’t believe in the willingness of governments to engage in long-run fiscal reform unless they inflict pointless pain right now. To repeat: the whole argument rests on the presumption that markets will turn on us unless we demonstrate a willingness to suffer, even though that suffering serves no purpose.
And the basis for this belief that this is what markets demand is … well, actually there’s no sign that markets are demanding any such thing. There’s Greece — but the Greek situation is very different from that of the US or the UK. And at the moment everyone except the overvalued euro-periphery nations is able to borrow at very low interest rates.
So wise policy, as defined by the G20 and like-minded others, consists of destroying economic recovery in order to satisfy hypothetical irrational demands from the markets — demands that economies suffer pointless pain to show their determination, demands that markets aren’t actually making, but which serious people, in their wisdom, believe that the markets will make one of these days.
———-[End of article]———
Germany, who’s exports are rocking and is actually one of the surplus countries that are supposed to provide a modicum of stimulus to the sagging world economy, has just announced an 80B euro austerity program..
Where is demand going to come from if so many countries are embarking on austerity? Well, there are some glimmers of hope from China..