Here's another reason why President Obama needs to stop paying homage to the deficit hawks and confidence fairies.
These past few years, the Republican line on job creation has been simple: Cut government spending, tame the deficit, and unemployment will fall. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not the day after, but soon. “To put it simply,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R- Va.) said last spring, “less government spending means more private-sector jobs.” But that’s not exactly a rigorous study. So here’s a rigorous study.
In a new paper for the International Monetary Fund, Laurence Ball, Daniel Leigh and Prakash Loungani look at 173 episodes of fiscal austerity over the past 30 years—with the average deficit cut amounting to 1 percent of GDP. Their verdict? Austerity “lowers incomes in the short term, with wage-earners taking more of a hit than others; it also raises unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment.”
More specifically, an austerity program that curbs the deficit by 1 percent of GDP reduces real incomes by about 0.6 percent and raises unemployment by almost 0.5 percentage points. What’s more, the IMF notes, the losses are twice as big when the central bank can’t cut rates (a good description of the present.) Typically, income and employment don’t fully recover even five years after the austerity program is put in place.
There’s also a class dimension here: A deficit cut of that size tends to cause real wage income, where lower-income folks get their money, to shrink by 0.9 percent, whereas rents and profits, which higher-income folks depend on, decline by just 0.3 percent. And, as the chart on the right shows, profits tend to bounce back faster than wages.
So what happens if we tighten our belts and cut back on spending, as Republicans unanimously want us to do? A new IMF study estimates the effect of a cutback equal to 1% of GDP, which amounts to about $150 billion in the U.S. According to both the GOP leadership and its crew of presidential candidates, this would be peanuts, a mere down payment on serious budget cutting.
And maybe so. Unfortunately, as the chart below shows, a cutback of that size would lead to lower incomes and dramatically higher unemployment. But wait! There's more! The IMF study says the effect is twice as big as the one in Chart 2 when central banks can't cut interest rates. And guess what? The Fed already has interest rates at zero. They can't cut them any further.
In other words, the GOP's version of belt-tightening would probably jack up unemployment rates by nearly a full point. Welcome to Rick Perry's America. (Via Brad Plumer.)
Ain't austerity grand?
In the first half of last year a strange delusion swept much of the policy elite on both sides of the Atlantic — the belief that cutting spending in the face of high unemployment would actually create jobs. I went after this stuff early and hard (I suspect that the confidence fairy will be one of my lasting contributions to economic discourse); still, it’s good to have a steadily mounting weight of evidence about just how wrong that view was.
And what's dangerous is that the Villagers are ignoring all the evidence and sticking with the right-wing economic model no matter what. I wish one rich beltway elite except for Thomas Friedman would come out and say what they really feel.
We are living in a morality play written by sociopaths, determined to make the poor suffer for the sins of the rich.
George Osborne's austerity programme will cut the living standards of Britain's families by more than 10% over the next three years as those on the lowest incomes suffer most from the tax increases and spending cuts designed to reduce the budget deficit.
A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the UK's leading experts on the public finances, concludes that the chancellor's strategy will result in greater inequality and rising child poverty, throwing into reverse progress made in the final years of the last Labour government.
Well, not everyone of course...