Category Archives: Macroeconomic policy

Peter Temin: Lessons From the Great Depression

In this video, Peter Temin, a highly respected expert on the Great Depression*, discusses some of the revealing parallels between that era and our current financial and economic plight with Marshall Auerback. Don’t be deceived by the leisurely pacing of this conversation and Temin’s soft-spoken manner. Temin in his measured way sets the stage for discussing how the trajectory we are on, which is undoing more and more social safety nets and job security, which are fundamental to trust, does not merely lead to lower productivity and hence hurts everyone, including the wealthy, but also puts us on a trajectory towards a dystopian future.

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Yanis Varoufakis: Was Maastricht Another Versailles for the German Nation? A Reply to Klaus Kastner

Lambert here: This post gives some insight into how hard the hardball that led to the Euro really was. Makes “the mess in Washington” look like pattycake (though not, admittedly, the run-up to the Civil War). By Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economics at the University of Athens. Cross posted from his website. Klaus Kastner […]

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Germany and the European Commission’s €315 Billion Infrastructure “New Deal” is Yet More Smoke and Mirrors

I have to confess I had not taken the announcement of a €315 billion infrastructure spending program by the European Commission all that seriously, despite the fact that this on the surface represented a very serious departure from the Troika’s antipathy for anything resembling fiscal spending. It was so out of character that something had to be wrong with the picture, particularly given the absence of any evidence of Pauline conversions from the Germans. And that’s before you get to the fact that while €315 billion sounds impressive, given that the spending is likely to be spread out over time, the size of the shot, even if it worked as advertised, is less impressive than it might seem.

In fact, the history of post-crisis interventions in the Eurozone has been that of sleight-of-hand over substance, except as far as austerity program are concerned. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard peels away the dissimulation in the latest effort at confidence building, with emphasis on the con.

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High Marginal Tax Rates on the Top 1%

Optimal tax rates for the rich are a perennial source of controversy. This column argues that high marginal tax rates on the top 1% of earners can make society as a whole better off. Not knowing whether they would ever make it into the top 1%, but understanding it is very unlikely, households especially at younger ages would happily accept a life that is somewhat better most of the time and significantly worse in the rare event they rise to the top 1%.

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Why is Anyone Surprised that Abenomics Failed?

In case you managed to miss it, there’s been a fair bit of hand-wringing over the fact that Japan has fallen back into a recession despite the supposedly heroic intervention called Abenomics, whose central feature was QE on steroids.

But Japan of all places should know that relying on the wealth effect to spur growth has always bombed in the long term.

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Joe Firestone: Elizabeth Warren – Better, But Not There Yet

Yves here. As Elizabeth Warren inches to the left on overall economic policy, one wonders if she’s actually shifting her views or responding to Hillary Clinton trying to rebrand herself as a populist. In fairness to Warren, it’s difficult not to be deeply inculcated in flawed economic thinking and thus hostage to false ideas like “We depend on China and Japan to finance our federal spending.” I look at my pre-crisis coverage and am embarrassed to see that sort of idea treated as obviously true. But if nothing else, the shift in Warren’s stance may be a sign that the Overton window is moving a smidge away from the right. After all, a big reason the Republicans so badly trounced the Dems in the midterms wasn’t just Democratic party fecklessness, but also that the Republicans kept their Tea Party extremists well out of the limelight and toned down the anti-women, anti-gay (and outside the border states) the anti-immigrant rhetoric. That actually amounts to a shift to the center, even if more for show than for real.

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Bill Black: EU Austerity Witch Doctors Attack Each Other

As things go from bad to worse in the eurozone the putative adults have begun to fight openly in front of the kids.  The putative adults, of course, have refused to act like adults for six years and instead have lived in a fantasy world in which austerity – bleeding the patient – is the optimal response to a recession.  As many of us have been warning for six years, this is a great way to create gratuitous recessions and even the Great Depression levels of unemployment in three nations of the periphery with 100 million citizens.

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How Much Has the IMF Changed in Response to the Global Crisis?

Yves here. For US readers, the posture of the IMF may not seem like a terribly important topic. But most countries in the world face decent prospects of being subject at some point to its tender ministrations. And even those that would seem to be exempt, like Germany, nevertheless also are subject to its impact through how IMF programs affect its export markets and Eurozone arrangements.

The IMF’s policies received a great deal of attention last year as its chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, effectively admitted that austerity did not work. The formulation was that in most cases, fiscal multipliers are greater than one. That means that cutting government deficits, in an effort to lower government debt, is ultimately counterproductive because the economy shrinks even more than the reduction in spending. The result is that the debt to GDP ratio actually gets worse. This outcome is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, since the neoliberal experiment has produced the same bad results when administered in Greece, Latvia, Ireland, and Portugal, to name a few.

But what did this rare bout of empiricism mean for the IMF? This post gives that question a hard look.

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Bill Black: The New York Times’ Coverage of EU Austerity Remains Pathetic

Yves here. Bill Black shellacks a New York Times article that gives a big dose of unadulterated neoliberal propaganda supporting austerity. To give you a sense of the intellectual integrity of this piece, it including citing a Peterson Institute staffer without cluing readers in to the fact that the Institute has what is left of the middle class in its crosshairs.

Black stresses that one of the major lies behind the continuing for more, better hairshirts for long-suffereing Europeans is that the explosion in debt levels in Europe was the result of overly-generous social safety nets. In fact, as in the US, the tremendous rise in government debt levels was the direct result of the crisis. Tax revenues collapsed due to GDP whackage (and the costs continue as GDP is well below potential). And any economist worth their salt will also say that social safety nets ameliorated the severity of the damage, that those automatic stabilizers increased government spending when it was needed most, at the depth of the implosion, and prevented a spiral into a much deeper downturn.

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