- Paul Krugman: The Twinkie Manifesto
- Fed Watch: Fiscal Madness
- Links for 11-19-2012
- Stop Obsessing About The Federal Budget Deficit
- 'America’s Fiscal Cliff Dwellers'
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 12:24 AM PST
The good old days hold lessons for today:
The Twinkie Manifesto, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: The Twinkie ... will forever be identified with the 1950s... And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.
Needless to say, it wasn't really innocent. But the '50s ... do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. ... Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. ...
Yet in the 1950s ... taxes on corporate profits were twice as large... The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent ... paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.
Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members. In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals...
Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. ... Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply...
Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever — and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats' style is met with cries of "socialism." ... Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right? ...
On the contrary,... the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth...
Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.
There are, let's face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, "Are you now or have you ever been?" The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation... Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.
Along the way, however, we've forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren't incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda..., it prospered. And we can do that again.
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 12:21 AM PST
Weisenthal points us to Ryan Avent and Josh Lehner, both showing in different ways the better post-recession outcomes experienced by the US compared to other economies. Paul Krugman extends the argument by comparing the divergent path of Eurozone and US unemployment rates. The key difference in policy - the US pursued a more aggressive fiscal policy and didn't pull back too quickly. I don't think you can emphasize this point enough.
Posted: 19 Nov 2012 12:06 AM PST
Posted: 18 Nov 2012 12:42 PM PST
Not sure how much good it will do, but I wish this too:
Why We Should Stop Obsessing About The Federal Budget Deficit, by Robert Reich: I wish President Obama and the Democrats would explain to the nation that the federal budget deficit isn't the nation's major economic problem and deficit reduction shouldn't be our major goal. Our problem is lack of good jobs and sufficient growth, and our goal must be to revive both. ...
Why don't our politicians and media get this? Because an entire deficit-cutting political industry has grown up in recent years – starting with Ross Perot's third party in the 1992 election, extending through Peter Peterson's Institute and other think-tanks funded by Wall Street and big business, embracing the eat-your-spinach deficit hawk crowd in the Democratic Party, and culminating in the Simpson-Bowles Commission that President Obama created in order to appease the hawks but which only legitimized them further.
Most of the media have bought into the narrative that our economic problems stem from an out-of-control budget deficit. They're repeating this hokum even now, when we're staring at a fiscal cliff that illustrates just how dangerous deficit reduction can be. ...
In fact, if there was ever a time for America to borrow more in order to put our people back to work repairing our crumbling infrastructure and rebuilding our schools, it's now.
Public investments ... are justifiable as long as the return on those investments – a more educated and productive workforce, and a more efficient infrastructure, both generating more and better goods and services with fewer scarce resources – is higher than the cost of those investments. In fact, we'd be nuts not to make these investments under these circumstances. ...
Finally, the biggest driver of future deficits is overstated — rising health-care costs that underlie projections for Medicare and Medicaid spending. The rate of growth of health-care costs is slowing because of the Affordable Care Act and increasing pressures on health providers to hold down costs. Yet projections of future budget deficits haven't yet factored in this slowdown.
So can we please stop obsessing about future budget deficits? They're distracting our attention from what we should be obsessing about — jobs and growth.
Posted: 18 Nov 2012 09:18 AM PST
America's Fiscal Cliff Dwellers, by Simon Johnson, Commentary, Project Syndicate: In early 2012, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke used the term "fiscal cliff" to grab the attention of lawmakers and the broader public. Bernanke's point was that Americans should worry about the combination of federal tax increases and spending cuts that are currently scheduled to begin at the end of this year.
But there is not really any kind of "cliff" in the sense that if you stepped over the edge, you would fall fast, land on something hard, and not get up for a long time. In the modern US economy, the scheduled changes constitute more of a fiscal "slope" – meaning that the full effect of the tax increases would not be felt immediately (income withholding takes time to adjust), while the spending cuts would also be phased in (the government has some discretion regarding implementation). This slope offers President Barack Obama a real opportunity to restore the federal government's revenue base to what it was in the mid-1990's.
The choice of words to describe America's fiscal situation matters, given the hysteria that has been whipped up in recent months, primarily by people who want to make big cuts in the country's two main entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare. Their logic is that if we are about to rush off a cliff, we need to take extreme measures. And cutting pensions and health care for the elderly certainly qualifies as extreme – as well as completely inappropriate and unnecessary.
If, instead, the US faces a fiscal slope, then people who refuse to consider raising taxes – namely, Republicans in the US Congress's House of Representatives – have a very weak hand indeed. ...[more]...