The Republic of T.

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Austerity Doesn’t Reduce Deficits

Austerity is back in the news, and the news about austerity is never good. We’ve only had de facto austerity on this side of the pond. So as usual, the news is from Europe, where the austerians are going full-tilt boogie. Our homegrown austerians, like their European counterparts, tell us that the kind of severe austerity underway in Europe is necessary to reduce the deficit. Everything from food stamps to Medicaid and Medicare — everything except defense spending — must be cut in order to reduce the deficit. 

The thing is, it hasn’t worked. In Greece, Europe’s austerity poster child, austerity has shrunk the economy and increased the national debt


Greece’s draft budget for 2013 has forecast a deeper recession and worse debt problems than previously thought.

The economy is expected to shrink by 4.5% next year, and government debts to rise to 189% of economic output.

Greece held inconclusive negotiations with its rescue lenders on Wednesday over the economic reforms needed to release further bailout funds.

The government also faces opposition to the reforms from coalition partners and unions have called a general strike.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held a conference call on Wednesday with his counterparts from the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, as well as representatives of the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

The German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said afterwards that Athens still needed to do more.

Austerity is literally killing Greece. Yet the austerians demand more. 

Austerity only increased inequality in Portugal. Now, after painful austerity measures that hit ordinary Portuguese and public sector workers hardest failed to reduce the deficit, Portuguese citizens are planning to rally against new tax increases

Anti-austerity protesters in Portugal are planning street rallies as the country’s parliament is expected to approve big tax rises in a new budget.

The centre-right government in Lisbon is hoping to reduce its budget deficit as part of the 78bn-euro (£63bn; $101bn) EU-IMF bailout deal.

However, the proposed 2013 budget could face a challenge in court.

Portugal has already cut public sector wages and raised taxes, triggering a series of street demonstrations.

Unemployment in Portugal is at a record high, and people have faced sharp reductions in their incomes. None of it seems to have made a dent in Portugal’s debt problem. Yet the austerians demand more.

Austerity has been disastrous for Ireland, which once made the top ten on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Independence.

The Central Statistics Office released its yearbook of Ireland, giving a comprehensive picture with facts and figures on key areas of life, including population, education and the economy.

It revealed that the look of the labour market worsened in 2011, with jobs and pay still in decline since the recession.

The number of people in work fell to 1.821 million since 2010, while those unemployed rose 3.7 per cent to 304,500.

… A staggering 23 per cent of people had hit the deprivation rate by 2010 and were experiencing two or more types of poverty.

In September, Spain braced for further austerity measures even as hungry Spaniards foraged in trash bins for food. But Spain’s economy contracted for a fifth quarter, because of austerity-driven inflation.

Spain’s economy contracted for a fifth quarter, undermining efforts to plug the budget deficit that’s pushing the nation closer to a bailout, while austerity measures kept inflation at a 17-month high.

Gross domestic product declined 0.3 percent in the three months through September and 1.6 percent from a year earlier, the National Statistics Institute said today, compared with an Oct. 23 estimate from the Bank of Spain of a 0.4 percent contraction. Consumer prices, based on European Union methodology, rose 3.5 percent from a year earlier, INE said.

The deepening of Spain’s five-year slump, which is prompting record loan defaults at the nation’s banks and job cuts at companies including Gamesa SA, adds to pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he resists requesting international aid. While tax hikes he’s implementing as part of his austerity program are depressing consumption, they are also spurring inflation, which threatens to add 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to the country’s pension bill.

All across the EU, austerity has driven joblessness to a record high

The jobless rate in the euro area climbed to a record in September as the fiscal crisis and tougher austerity measures threatened to deepen the economy’s slump.

Unemployment in the economy of the 17 nation single currency area rose to 11.6 per cent from 11.5 per cent in August, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said today. That’s the highest since the data series started in 1995.

Some 18.5 million people were unemployed in the euro area in September, up 146,000 from the previous month.

At 25.8 per cent, Spain had the highest jobless rate in the currency bloc.

Portugal’s unemployment rate was at 15.7 per cent, while Ireland reported a jobless rate of 15.1 per cent. France’s jobless rate was at 10.8 per cent.

Italy’s jobless rate rose to its highest point in 13 years, at 10.8 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Yet the austerians demand even more. 

Americans should pay attention to the saga of austerity in the EU, for a couple of reasons. First, because conservatives here at home are committed to the same agenda that’s failed in Europe.

If Mr. Obama wins, he’ll presumably go back to pushing for modest stimulus, aiming to convert the gradual recovery that seems to be under way into a more rapid return to full employment.

Republicans, however, are committed to an economic doctrine that has proved false, indeed disastrous, in other countries. Nor are they likely to change their views in the light of experience. After all, facts haven’t gotten in the way of Republican orthodoxy on any other aspect of economic policy. The party remains opposed to effective financial regulation despite the catastrophe of 2008; it remains obsessed with the dangers of inflation despite years of false alarms. So it’s not likely to give up its politically convenient views about job creation.

And here’s the thing: if Mitt Romney wins the election, the G.O.P. will surely consider its economic ideas vindicated. In other words, politically good things may be about to happen to very bad ideas. And if that’s how it plays out, the American people will pay the price.

Second, if good things end up happening to bad political ideas here in the U.S., we may need to follow the example of Europeans who are standing up and saying “No,” when the austerians keep demanding more.

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