Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”
The New York Time’s David Leonhardt has the perfect article for the layperson who wants to understand the current debate between the deficit hawks and the stimulus advocates:
“The policy mistakes of the 1930s stemmed mostly from ignorance. John Maynard Keynes was still a practicing economist in those days, and his central insight about depressions — that governments need to spend when the private sector isn’t — was not widely understood. In the 1932 presidential campaign, Franklin D. Roosevelt vowed to outdo Herbert Hoover by balancing the budget. Much of Europe was also tightening at the time.
If anything, the initial stages of our own recent crisis were more severe than the Great Depression. Global trade, industrial production and stocks all dropped more in 2008-9 than in 1929-30, as a study by Barry Eichengreen and Kevin H. O’Rourke found.
In 2008, though, policy makers in most countries knew to act aggressively. The Federal Reserve and other central banks flooded the world with cheap money. The United States, China, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Europe, increased spending and cut taxes.”
Given that, what is the issue for the austerity debate today?
“The reasons vary by country. Greece has no choice. It is out of money, and the markets will not lend to it at a reasonable rate. Several other countries are worried — not ludicrously — that financial markets may turn on them, too, if they delay deficit reduction. Spain falls into this category, and even Britain may.
Then there are the countries that still have the cash or borrowing ability to push for more growth, like the United States, Germany and China, which happen to be three of the world’s biggest economies. Yet they are also reluctant.
China, until recently at least, has been worried about its housing market overheating. Germany has long been afraid of stimulus, because of inflation’s role in the Nazis’ political rise. In responding to the recent financial crisis, Europe, led by Germany, was much more timid than the United States, which is one reason the European economy is in worse shape today.
The reasons for the new American austerity are subtler, but not shocking. Our economy remains in rough shape, by any measure. So it’s easy to confuse its condition (bad) with its direction (better) and to lose sight of how much worse it could be. The unyielding criticism from those who opposed stimulus from the get-go — laissez-faire economists, Congressional Republicans, German leaders — plays a role, too. They’re able to shout louder than the data.
The whole piece is well worth a read . . .
Governments Moving to Cut Spending, in Echo of 1930s
NYT, June 29, 2010
About two weeks ago, Kartik Athreya, a researcher for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, posted a diatribe about the difficulties in performing macroeconomic research and policy. Titled “Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise,” it was an odd sort of academic rant. Stung by myriad criticisms of the Fed, Athreya attempted to…Read More
Sometime over the past two weeks, the word “Austerians” burst onto the blogosphere. A play on the fiscal reserve of the “Austrian” school of economic thought (Friedrich Hayek or Ludwig von Mises) the phrase Austerians referred to the desire to slash government spending and cut deficits during a time of economic weakness or recession. Economix…Read More
This continues to be fascinating: “The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show the United States underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance. Among the seven nations studied—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last…Read More
One of my regular criticisms of George W. Bush as President was, when presented with an opportunity to achieve greatness, he repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion. Indeed, his presidency can be viewed as a long series of missed opportunities: “Once in a generation, the stars align for a political leader. There is this…Read More
On Monday, Moody’s downgraded Greece’s government bond ratings to junk status of Ba1 from A3. As legislators debate new regulation for the financial sector, this action yesterday serves as a reminder to the folks in DC that the current regime of ratings agencies has become an unmitigated disaster. It also raises a simple question: What…Read More
Joe Nocera cuts right to the heart of the “Blame Fannie and Freddie” argument in today’s NYT. It is an article well worth your time to read. He looks a the CATO/AEI narrative — that the government forced the GSEs (and the banks through the CRA) to make ill advised loans to people who could…Read More
Today’s must read media piece comes from former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, in the NY Review of Books: “Some five years ago, at a conference of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, I lamented that “the growing imbalances, disequilibria, risks” were giving rise to “circumstances as dangerous and intractable” as any I could recall—intractable…Read More
To a man whose only tool is a hammer, pretty soon everything begins to look like a nail. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that aphorism as I read the most popular article on WSJ.com yesterday — Tax Hikes and the 2011 Economic Collapse — a screed on the Laffer curve and Supply Side…Read More