The Chutzpah Caucus


RichardH sent me the link to The New York Times column The Chutzpah Caucus by Paul Krugman.

At this point the economic case for austerity — for slashing government spending even in the face of a weak economy — has collapsed. Claims that spending cuts would actually boost employment by promoting confidence have fallen apart. Claims that there is some kind of red line of debt that countries dare not cross have turned out to rest on fuzzy and to some extent just plain erroneous math. Predictions of fiscal crisis keep not coming true; predictions of disaster from harsh austerity policies have proved all too accurate.

If the level of debt compared to GDP is the real issue for Republicans like Gabriel Gomez and for Harvard Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, then why is the following revelation by Paul Krugman true?

The key measure you want to look at is the ratio of debt to G.D.P., which measures the government’s fiscal position better than a simple dollar number. And if you look at United States history since World War II, you find that of the 10 presidents who preceded Barack Obama, seven left office with a debt ratio lower than when they came in. Who were the three exceptions? Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. So debt increases that didn’t arise either from war or from extraordinary financial crisis are entirely associated with hard-line conservative governments.

OK, let me be fairer to Reinhart and Rogoff than they were to academic rigor.  They claim that despite their erroneous and fudged calculations,  neither their paper nor their book ever advocated austerity during an economic recovery.  So I guess, Gabriel Gomez and his fellow Republicans are really on their own on this one.

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