The Real Story - Paul Krugman
Krugman comes out swinging. The current political narrative is so far off the mark, rewarding the folks who were never in favor of doing anything to stem the economic blood letting, the ones who forecast dire consequences should the stimulus go forward, consequences that never materialized.
When Mr. Obama first proposed $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, there were two groups of critics. Both argued that unemployment would stay high — but for very different reasons.
One group — the group that got almost all the attention — declared that the stimulus was much too large, and would lead to disaster. If you were, say, reading The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages in early 2009, you would have been repeatedly informed that the Obama plan would lead to skyrocketing interest rates and soaring inflation.
The other group, which included yours truly, warned that the plan was much too small given the economic forecasts then available. As I pointed out in February 2009, the Congressional Budget Office was predicting a $2.9 trillion hole in the economy over the next two years; an $800 billion program, partly consisting of tax cuts that would have happened anyway, just wasn’t up to the task of filling that hole.
Critics in the second camp were particularly worried about what would happen this year, since the stimulus would have its maximum effect on growth in late 2009 then gradually fade out. Last year, many of us were already warning that the economy might stall in the second half of 2010.
So what actually happened? The administration’s optimistic forecast was wrong, but which group of pessimists was right about the reasons for that error?
and there this nice point about Germany’s recovery:
Oh, and don’t tell me that Germany proves that austerity, not stimulus, is the way to go. Germany actually did quite a lot of stimulus — the austerity is all in the future. Also, it never had a housing bubble that burst. And with all that, German G.D.P. is still further below its precrisis peak than American G.D.P. True, Germany has done better in terms of employment — but that’s because strong unions and government policy have prevented American-style mass layoffs.
and then he tees up the ball, and hits it out of the park:
The actual lessons of 2009-2010, then, are that scare stories about stimulus are wrong, and that stimulus works when it is applied. But it wasn’t applied on a sufficient scale. And we need another round.
I know that getting that round is unlikely: Republicans and conservative Democrats won’t stand for it. And if, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we’ll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong.
But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason — yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints — initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy’s problems.
It’s politically convenient to rewrite history to fit your narrative. All politicians do it - it’s not comfortable to have your worldview challenged and checked. And in regular times, that doesn’t seem so awful. We seem to be able to get on in spite of the revisionists. These are not regular times. It’s time to have some balls and call the bullsh1t for what it is - bullsh!t.