Monday, August 30, 2010

Should We Balance The Budget While The Economy Is Still Weak?

While some are suggesting that balancing the budget is critical to avoiding a double-dip recession, a premature return to austerity could create more problems than it helps to solve. With the US economy still weak, some economists worry that pulling back stimulus before the economy is growing strongly on its own is a recipe for a repeat of the Great Depression. See the following post from Economist's View.

Watch the PBS NewsHour video clip here.

The discussion starts around the 2:00 minute mark. Via C&L

Holtz-Eakin is encouraging us to balance the budget even though the economy is still relatively weak, and in doing so, to make the same mistake we made during the Great Depression. A quick look at recent data, and all the talk about the chance of a double dip we've been hearing, shows that we are anything but certain we we will be back at full employment anytime soon. Recovery from a financial crisis is often a long, drawn out process, and that may be true this time as well, but that means the economy needs more help over a longer period, not a premature return to austerity that risks sending the economy back into recession.

Why would we want to risk sending the economy back into a recession by beginning to balance the budget before the economy is growing robustly on its own? Republicans believe some sort of confidence effect from the decline in the deficit -- one that cannot actually be observed in the data but is, nevertheless, asserted to be there anyway -- will somehow more than offset the certain decline in demand from the reduction in the government deficit. But the problem is that the decline in demand will have it's own confidence effect on businesses, one that is negative, more certain, and likely much larger than any positive effects from deficit reduction.

And is anyone else getting tired of the "Obama is creating business uncertainty" argument from the Party that is creating most of the uncertainty and uneasiness about what crazy things might happen should they be elected? It worked out so well for the economy the last time they were in power and emphasized growth above all else. We're still trying to get out of that sinkhole -- talk about creating uncertainty. In any case, as noted by Paul Krugman on the video, there's nothing at all to indicate that businesses are, in fact, holding back due to uncertainties created by the administration's policies. Businesses face lots of uncertainties due to lack of demand for their products, and perhaps over what might change if Republicans take power, something that can hardly be blamed on the administration. But balancing the budget as Holtz-Eakin would have us do would reduce demand and cause fewer paying customers to walk through their doors. That makes the uncertainty problem worse, not better.

Putting it more succinctly, the Party in power when we got into this mess wants to be given another chance so it can try policies that failed during the Great Depression. And some people think that's a good idea.

This article has been republished from Mark Thoma's blog, Economist's View.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I watched the clip twice to make sure I understood what was going on. I have carefully read the blog post.

Holz-Eakin is seriously misrepresented by a partisan hackery of Dem talking points. Republicans are seriously misrepresented by a partisan hackery of Dem talking points.