To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Pain Without Gain
By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times
Published: February 19, 2012
(I)n early 2010 austerity economics – the insistence that governments should slash spending even in the face of high unemployment – became all the rage in European capitals. The doctrine asserted that the direct negative effects of spending cuts on employment would be offset by changes in “confidence,” that savage spending cuts would lead to a surge in consumer and business spending, while nations failing to make such cuts would see capital flight and soaring interest rates. If this sounds to you like something Herbert Hoover might have said, you’re right: It does and he did.
Now the results are in – and they’re exactly what three generations’ worth of economic analysis and all the lessons of history should have told you would happen. The confidence fairy has failed to show up: none of the countries slashing spending have seen the predicted private-sector surge. Instead, the depressing effects of fiscal austerity have been reinforced by falling private spending.
Furthermore, bond markets keep refusing to cooperate. Even austerity’s star pupils, countries that, like Portugal and Ireland, have done everything that was demanded of them, still face sky-high borrowing costs. Why? Because spending cuts have deeply depressed their economies, undermining their tax bases to such an extent that the ratio of debt to G.D.P., the standard indicator of fiscal progress, is getting worse rather than better.
Meanwhile, countries that didn’t jump on the austerity train – most notably, Japan and the United States – continue to have very low borrowing costs, defying the dire predictions of fiscal hawks.
(A)s far as I can tell, austerity is still considered responsible and necessary despite its catastrophic failure in practice.
The point is that we could actually do a lot to help our economies simply by reversing the destructive austerity of the last two years. That’s true even in America, which has avoided full-fledged austerity at the federal level but has seen big spending and employment cuts at the state and local level. Remember all the fuss about whether there were enough “shovel ready” projects to make large-scale stimulus feasible? Well, never mind: all the federal government needs to do to give the economy a big boost is provide aid to lower-level governments, allowing these governments to rehire the hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers they have laid off and restart the building and maintenance projects they have canceled.
Look, I understand why influential people are reluctant to admit that policy ideas they thought reflected deep wisdom actually amounted to utter, destructive folly. But it’s time to put delusional beliefs about the virtues of austerity in a depressed economy behind us.
Paul Krugman, The New York Times
February 20, 2012, 8:12 pm
(T)hinking about today’s column, I realized that it’s even worse than that. What defines centrist heroes, as far as I can tell, is that they are people who, faced with a catastrophic slump driven by private-sector abuses, and a severe shortfall of spending, declared that our most urgent priority is … to reduce budget deficits.
That’s often described as a courageous position, but it’s actually anything but: nobody in the Beltway dinner-party circuit has ever been ostracized for demanding entitlement cuts. And aside from being totally conventional, it’s also deeply wrong-headed – and if you ask me somewhat unethical, too, because it involves exploiting a crisis to push an agenda totally unrelated to that crisis.