Monday, February 20, 2012

Greece and California budgets

Pain without Gain.  Paul Krugman. 2/20/12. NYT.
“And this downturn is hitting nations that have never recovered from the last recession. For all America’s troubles, its gross domestic product has finally surpassed its pre-crisis peak; Europe’s has not. And some nations are suffering Great Depression-level pain: Greece and Ireland have had double-digit declines in output, Spain has 23 percent unemployment, Britain’s slump has now gone on longer than its slump in the 1930s.
Worse yet, European leaders — and quite a few influential players here — are still wedded to the economic doctrine responsible for this disaster.
For things didn’t have to be this bad. Greece would have been in deep trouble no matter what policy decisions were taken, and the same is true, to a lesser extent, of other nations around Europe’s periphery. But matters were made far worse than necessary by the way Europe’s leaders, and more broadly its policy elite, substituted moralizing for analysis, fantasies for the lessons of history.
Specifically, in 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.”
Yet in California we have a governor and a legislature that are tied to the austerity budgets – that is cut, cut, cut. To be fair the Democrats don’t wish to be there. However the state constitution that requires ( since 1978) that any tax increase requires a 2/3 vote paralyzes the state budget.  And, this produces the same downward spiral as Greece, Italy, and Ireland.
Krugman’s point – austerity budgets do not get us out of the hole. It is tragic that millions of Californians must suffer extended unemployment and foreclosures while waiting for the legislature, particularly the Republicans, to learn basic economics.

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