Friday, December 7, 2012

The Austerity Crusade Fails Again; If Only They'd Listen To Keynes

It shouldn't have needed yet another proof, but here it is: as John Cassidy puts it, "an official confirmation from the United Kingdom that austerity policies don’t work."

Anybody who works from a knowledge of economic history already knew that. But the high priests of Supply-side were sure. All they needed to do was to be sufficiently faithful to their doctrine. It didn't work. And nobody who even came close to understanding Keynes was surprised by anything other than the deficit-hawks continued belief that balancing the budget will somehow cure all the ails us. Cure it because ... um ... underpants? Surely that's it. The balancing of the budget would cause the confidence fairy's underpants to fit better and she would come dancing along to rain blessings upon us for so dutifully cutting to balance our budgets.

After all, it surely all comes back to underpants, at least when we're dealing with the faith-based economics of Supply-siders (the Trickle-down-istas). For anyone who's seen South Park's "underpants gnomes" and their business plan:
  1. Collect underpants
  2. ?
  3. Profit!
It's the very same with deficit-hawks:
  1. Balance the budget
  2. ?
  3. Profit!
It really does require a pure leap of faith to jump off that cliff. Sadly, there are sharp, pointy rocks below and there really is no confidence fairy waiting around to boost folks back onto solid ground after they slash budgets during a downturn. So march off to the austerity crusade boys. And don't forget to inflict lots of suffering on your economy because that's the only way to scare the evil spirits out of it. Right? We just have to believe hard enough and the confidence fairy will appear. Never mind those rocks. We're not plummeting towards them, they're just growing bigger. That's all.

But no, that's not all. Austerity fails. At least from where we are. Austerity will be harmful so long as we're demand-constrained rather than supply-constrained. And we're clearly demand-constrained rather than supply-constrained. So anyone who was paying attention should have known not to cut spending. But the Supply-side faithful would have nothing of it. Listen? Pay attention to history? Heck no!

Can we please stop with the misguided, ill-timed budget-cutting when our economy isn't roaring along? Pretty please? Austerity fails. Supply-side fails. Trickle-down doesn't trickle down. We can only safely cut when we're already doing well ... preferably when we're overheated. We're not suffering from overabundance. If we bleed our economy of government spending, all that'll do is make the patient more sick. Enough with the "harsh medicine" already. It'll only hurt.

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