By Henry Blodget at Tech Ticker:
For the last several months, Princeton professor Paul Krugman has become increasingly agitated about what he feels is a disastrous mistake in the making — a sudden global obsession with “austerity” that will lead to spending cuts in many nations in Europe and, possibly, the United States.
Krugman believes that this is exactly the same mistake we made in 1937, when the country was beginning to emerge from the Great Depression. A sudden focus on austerity in 1937, it is widely believed, halted four years of strong growth and plunged the country back into recession, sending the unemployment rate soaring again.
In Krugman’s view, the world should keep spending now, to offset the pain of the recession and high unemployment–and then start cutting back as soon as the economy is robustly healthy again.
Those concerned about the world’s massive debt and deficits, however, have seized control of the public debate, and are scaring the world’s governments into cutting back.
Which fate is worse? It depends on your time frame.
Cutting back on spending now would almost certainly make the economy worse, at least for the short run. Not cutting back on spending later, meanwhile (and Congress has shown no ability to curtail spending), will almost certainly keep us on a road to hell in a handbasket.
The White House’s own budget projections show the deficit improving as a percent of GDP to about -4% by 2013. After that, however, even the White House doesn’t think things will get much better. After a few years of bumping along at about -4%, the deficit will begin to soar at the end of the decade. And thanks to the ballooning costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security–along with inflating interest payments from all the debt we’re accumulating–the White House expects the deficit to soar to a staggering -62% of GDP by 2085.
What Krugman and his foes agree on is that that’s no way to run a country. And it’s time we finally faced up to that.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to fight about what to do in the near-term. And Krugman thinks he has lost that war and we’re headed for another Depression.
See why Krugman’s nemesis, Niall Ferguson, thinks the U.S. is screwed >
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