Paul Krugman: the Failure of Austerity

Austerity isn't working, reports Paul Krugman. In an op-ed for the New York Times,  Krugman highlights that in the mist of Europe's financial crisis, perhaps we should examine history to judge the success of cutting spending to avert economic recession:[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Greek austerity protests; photo courtesy of Christina Kekka"]Greece's powerful protest against austerity meters, May 2011[/caption]

"The doctrine in question amounts to the assertion that, in the aftermath of a financial crisis, banks must be bailed out but the general public must pay the price. So a crisis brought on by deregulation becomes a reason to move even further to the right; a time of mass unemployment, instead of spurring public efforts to create jobs, becomes an era of austerity, in which government spending and social programs are slashed.

This doctrine was sold both with claims that there was no alternative — that both bailouts and spending cuts were necessary to satisfy financial markets — and with claims that fiscal austerity would actually create jobs. The idea was that spending cuts would make consumers and businesses more confident. And this confidence would supposedly stimulate private spending, more than offsetting the depressing effects of government cutbacks.

...Now, however, the results are in, and the picture isn’t pretty. Greece has been pushed by its austerity measures into an ever-deepening slump — and that slump, not lack of effort on the part of the Greek government, was the reason a classified report to European leaders concluded last week that the existing program there was unworkable. Britain’s economy has stalled under the impact of austerity, and confidence from both businesses and consumers has slumped, not soared.

....And there’s a lesson here for the rest of us: The suffering that so many of our citizens are facing is unnecessary. If this is a time of incredible pain and a much harsher society, that was a choice. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be this way."

Read Krugman's full analysis here.


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