Budget cuts hurt British economy – study — RT

As any first year economics student knows…

The British economy won’t begin to recover until 2014, as government’s cuts and the euro crisis slash demand which is a key driver for UK economy growth, is the conclusion of a study prepared by a leading UK think tank.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research revised its forecast, saying the UK economy would shrink 0.5% this year, down from an initial estimate of zero growth.

“The major problem in the U.K. economy is a lack of demand, and the government can do things to boost demand,” Simon Kirby, the economist at the NIESR said.

Though the 2010 austerity program, which was extended for two years to 2017, was aimed to boost growth to 2.8% this year, the UK economy contracted by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2012, the report stressed.

Had the government postponed its austerity program by three years, the country’s economy could grow 1.2% this year and the output could grow 239 billion pounds between 2011 and 2021, the NIESR said.

“It remains the case there is scope for a less aggressive path of fiscal tightening,” Kirby said. “We would be seeing a small amount of growth rather contraction.”

NIESR called on the government to loosen its debt reduction plans and borrow more to pay for key infrastructure projects. The think tank expects Chancellor George Osborne to borrow 12.5 billion pounds more than planned in the year through March 2013.  However, NIESR welcomed recent steps to boost the economy such as the Funding for Lending Scheme which is designed to avoid a possible credit crunch and higher interest rates during the crisis.

via Budget cuts hurt British economy – study — RT.

Bain Capital’s Ties to Salvadoran Death Squads | The Nation

What else is Mitt hiding?

Some of the first investors in Mitt Romney’s firm Bain Capital, according to a report on the Los Angeles Times, were Salvadoran families living in Miami with members accused by the US government of funding death squads in the brutal civil war in El Salvador.

When Bain Capital was founded in 1984, Romney and his partners had trouble raising funds for their initial investments. “$9 million came from rich Latin Americans,” the Times reports, “including powerful Salvadoran families living in Miami.… At the time, U.S. officials were publicly accusing some exiles in Miami of funding right-wing death squads in El Salvador. Some family members of the first Bain Capital investors were later linked to groups responsible for killings.”

more at Bain Capital’s Ties to Salvadoran Death Squads | The Nation.

Corporatism and Fraud are Why Were Screwed: | Credit Writedowns

Via Credit Writedowns…

As the Global Financial Crisis rumbles along in its fifth year, we read the latest revelations of bankster fraud, the LIBOR scandal. This follows the muni bond fixing scam detailed a couple of weeks ago, as well as the JPMorgan Chase trading fiasco and the Corzine – MF Global collapse and any number of other scandals in recent months. In every case it was traders run amuck, fixing “markets” to make an easy buck at someone’s expense. In times like these, I always recall Robert Sherrill’s 1990 statement about the S&L crisis that “thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.”After 1990 we removed what was left of financial regulations following the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s that had freed the thrifts so that they could self-destruct. And we are shocked, SHOCKED!, that thieves took over the financial system.Nay, they took over the whole economy and the political system lock, stock, and barrel. They didn’t just blow up finance, they oversaw the swiftest transfer of wealth to the very top the world has ever seen. They screwed workers out of their jobs, they screwed homeowners out of their houses, they screwed retirees out of their pensions, and they screwed municipalities out of their revenues and assets.Financiers are forcing schools, parks, pools, fire departments, senior citizen centers, and libraries to shut down. They are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales pun intended at prices rigged by twenty-something traders at the biggest and most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.And since they’ve bought the politicians, the policy-makers, and the courts, no one will stop it. Few will even discuss it, since most university administrations have similarly been bought off—in many cases, the universities are even headed by corporate “leaders”–and their professors are on Wall Street’s payrolls.We’re screwed.

More at Corporatism and Fraud are Why Were Screwed: | Credit Writedowns.


From http://www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org/

More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world’s major advanced economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason is simple: we are relying on the same ideas that governed policy in the 1930s. These ideas, long since disproved, involve profound errors both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the appropriate response.

These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support for the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries. So the time is ripe for a Manifesto in which mainstream economists offer the public a more evidence-based analysis of our problems.

  • The causes. Many policy makers insist that the crisis was caused by irresponsible public borrowing. With very few exceptions – other than Greece – this is false. Instead, the conditions for crisis were created by excessive private sector borrowing and lending, including by over-leveraged banks. The collapse of this bubble led to massive falls in output and thus in tax revenue. So the large government deficits we see today are a consequence of the crisis, not its cause.
  • The nature of the crisis. When real estate bubbles on both sides of the Atlantic burst, many parts of the private sector slashed spending in an attempt to pay down past debts. This was a rational response on the part of individuals, but – just like the similar response of debtors in the 1930s – it has proved collectively self-defeating, because one person’s spending is another person’s income. The result of the spending collapse has been an economic depression that has worsened the public debt.
  • The appropriate response. At a time when the private sector is engaged in a collective effort to spend less, public policy should act as a stabilizing force, attempting to sustain spending. At the very least we should not be making things worse by big cuts in government spending or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many governments are now doing.
  • The big mistake. After responding well in the first, acute phase of the economic crisis, conventional policy wisdom took a wrong turn – focusing on government deficits, which are mainly the result of a crisis-induced plunge in revenue, and arguing that the public sector should attempt to reduce its debts in tandem with the private sector. As a result, instead of playing a stabilizing role, fiscal policy has ended up reinforcing and exacerbating the dampening effects of private-sector spending cuts.

In the face of a less severe shock, monetary policy could take up the slack. But with interest rates close to zero, monetary policy – while it should do all it can – cannot do the whole job. There must of course be a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit. But if this is too front-loaded it can easily be self-defeating by aborting the recovery. A key priority now is to reduce unemployment, before it becomes endemic, making recovery and future deficit reduction even more difficult.

How do those who support present policies answer the argument we have just made? They use two quite different arguments in support of their case.

The confidence argument. Their first argument is that government deficits will raise interest rates and thus prevent recovery. By contrast, they argue, austerity will increase confidence and thus encourage recovery.

But there is no evidence at all in favour of this argument. First, despite exceptionally high deficits, interest rates today are unprecedentedly low in all major countries where there is a normally functioning central bank. This is true even in Japan where the government debt now exceeds 200% of annual GDP; and past downgrades by the rating agencies here have had no effect on Japanese interest rates. Interest rates are only high in some Euro countries, because the ECB is not allowed to act as lender of last resort to the government. Elsewhere the central bank can always, if needed, fund the deficit, leaving the bond market unaffected.

Moreover past experience includes no relevant case where budget cuts have actually generated increased economic activity. The IMF has studied 173 cases of budget cuts in individual countries and found that the consistent result is economic contraction. In the handful of cases in which fiscal consolidation was followed by growth, the main channels were a currency depreciation against a strong world market, not a current possibility. The lesson of the IMF’s study is clear – budget cuts retard recovery. And that is what is happening now – the countries with the biggest budget cuts have experienced the biggest falls in output.

For the truth is, as we can now see, that budget cuts do not inspire business confidence. Companies will only invest when they can foresee enough customers with enough income to spend. Austerity discourages investment.

So there is massive evidence against the confidence argument; all the alleged evidence in favor of the doctrine has evaporated on closer examination.

The structural argument. A second argument against expanding demand is that output is in fact constrained on the supply side – by structural imbalances. If this theory were right, however, at least some parts of our economies ought to be at full stretch, and so should some occupations. But in most countries that is just not the case. Every major sector of our economies is struggling, and every occupation has higher unemployment than usual. So the problem must be a general lack of spending and demand.

In the 1930s the same structural argument was used against proactive spending policies in the U.S. But as spending rose between 1940 and 1942, output rose by 20%. So the problem in the 1930s, as now, was a shortage of demand not of supply.

As a result of their mistaken ideas, many Western policy-makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. But the ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions were rejected by nearly all economists after the disasters of the 1930s, and for the following forty years or so the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low unemployment. It is tragic that in recent years the old ideas have again taken root. But we can no longer accept a situation where mistaken fears of higher interest rates weigh more highly with policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.

Better policies will differ between countries and need detailed debate. But they must be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who agree with the broad thrust of this Manifesto to register their agreement at http://www.manifestoforeconomicsense.org, and to publically argue the case for a sounder approach. The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong.

To add you name to the Manifesto click here

A Manifesto for Economic Sense

Robert Skidelsky: The Austere Land | The New Republic

This article could be called “so how’s that austerity working out”…

THE LAST FOUR YEARS have created what economists call a “natural experiment” in economic policy. As a consequence of deregulation and globalization, Britain and the United States experienced the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way. Large parts of the banking system collapsed and had to be rescued; the real economy went into a nosedive and had to be stimulated. But after 2010, the United States continued to stimulate its economy, while Britain chose the stonier path of austerity.

Find out which country’s doing better at Robert Skidelsky: The Austere Land | The New Republic.

Without GOP Austerity, Economy Would Be Recovering At Pace Of ‘Reagan Recovery’ | ThinkProgress

Republicans are either very bad at economics or have another agenda…

Ignoring the warnings of economists and clear evidence in Europe that austerity would only hold back an economic recovery, Republicans in Washington have pushed for deep spending cuts and other austerity measures. One side effect of those spending cuts is that state and local governments, already facing budget crunches because of the slow economy, have been forced to make even deeper reductions to their own budgets. Hundreds of thousands of public sector employees — teachers, police officers, and firefighters included — have lost their jobs as a result of those cuts.

more at Without GOP Austerity, Economy Would Be Recovering At Pace Of ‘Reagan Recovery’ | ThinkProgress.

The Austerity Agenda | Common Dreams

Must read article by Nobel winning economist, Paul Krugman, on what’s really up with all the austerity…

“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.” So declared John Maynard Keynes 75 years ago, and he was right. Even if you have a long-run deficit problem — and who doesn’t? — slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression.

more at The Austerity Agenda | Common Dreams.

Why is austerity so unpopular in Europe? Because it’s not working. – The Washington Post

Europeans are rebelling against austerity. That’s the read on Sunday’s elections in Greece and France. But why do voters loathe austerity? Perhaps because, as economists have found, efforts to rein in budget deficits can take a wrenching toll on living standards, especially in a recession.

more at Why is austerity so unpopular in Europe? Because it’s not working. – The Washington Post.

Austerity Kills: How the EuroCrisis is Being Used to Break the Social Contract « naked capitalism

Since economists all know that the way to get out of recession is to increase spending, one truly has to conclude that economic recovery is not the austerity proponents goal….

One aspect of the Eurocrisis that has not gotten the attention it deserves is the way it is destroying not just jobs, but the very underpinnings of society. People who took actions that were prudent at the time are increasingly at the mercy of forces beyond their control. And this isn’t a tsunami-type disaster but a man-made one whose severity is worsened by the callous attitudes of the European elites.

more at Austerity Kills: How the EuroCrisis is Being Used to Break the Social Contract « naked capitalism.