Saturday, October 23, 2010

Krugman on Austerity

Here. I generally agree with his rejection of deficit-hawking and the fetishization of "balanced budgets". But the first paragraph assumes a premise which is seriously problematic:
In the spring of 2010, fiscal austerity became fashionable. I use the term advisedly: the sudden consensus among Very Serious People that everyone must balance budgets now now now wasn’t based on any kind of careful analysis.
The tacit premise is that balancing the budget "now now now" is something only achieved by way of austerity. That is quite obviously false. The Bush tax cuts for the rich have cost public coffers over $3 Trillion over 8 years. That sum alone would wipe out the deficit. And other sorts of taxes on the assets of the super-rich could easily enable public services to increase their operations at a time when more and more people need them. Of course, keeping this premise implicit, rather than explicit, is a key part of how budget-cut fatalism functions as an ideology.

Krugman has (correctly) suggested elsewhere that "chopping from the top" is the way to go. Here he just seems to be suggesting that more deficit spending is what's needed. I'm not ruling out that he wouldn't agree that we should still "chop from the top". But I think it is worth pointing out that the contents of this most recent article seem to omit the possibility of taxing the rich to forestall cuts.

As he himself points out in the article, the official way that the cuts are sold to the public is precisely as I described in recent posts about budget-cut fatalism: the Tories are simply saying "there is no alternative". And to make that sell, one needs to assume that the most obvious alternative, taxing the rich, is not even a logical possibility.

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