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The Austerity Agenda

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

May 31, 2012
… slashing spending while the economy is deeply depressed is a self-defeating strategy, because it just deepens the depression… So why have so many politicians insisted on pursuing austerity in slump? And why won’t they change course even as experience confirms the lessons of theory and history? … they almost always retreat to assertions along the lines of: “But it’s essential that we shrink the size of the state.”… it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs… For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it.

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Pain Without Gain

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Feb. 19, 2012
The confidence fairy has failed to show up: none of the countries slashing spending have seen the predicted private-sector surge. Instead, the depressing effects of fiscal austerity have been reinforced by falling private spending… Why? Because spending cuts have deeply depressed their economies, undermining their tax bases to such an extent that the ratio of debt to G.D.P., the standard indicator of fiscal progress, is getting worse rather than better.

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Keynes Was Right

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Dec. 29, 2011
… the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans — and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps… 2011 was a year in which our political elite obsessed over short-term deficits that aren’t actually a problem and, in the process, made the real problem — a depressed economy and mass unemployment — worse.

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Oligarchy, American Style

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

November 3, 2011
… protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong… almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent… rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth… extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy… the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

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The Path Not Taken

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

October 27, 2011
… a crisis brought on by deregulation becomes a reason to move even further to the right; a time of mass unemployment, instead of spurring public efforts to create jobs, becomes an era of austerity, in which government spending and social programs are slashed. This doctrine was sold both with claims that there was no alternative… [But] Iceland let the banks go bust and actually expanded its social safety net… it has managed to limit both the rise in unemployment and the suffering of the most vulnerable; the social safety net has survived intact, as has the basic decency of its society.

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Panic of the Plutocrats

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

October 9, 2011
Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is… They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens. Yet they have paid no price… And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

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Medicare Saves Money

Monday, June 13th, 2011

June 12, 2011
Medicare actually saves money — a lot of money — compared with relying on private insurance companies. And this in turn means that pushing people out of Medicare, in addition to depriving many Americans of needed care, would almost surely end up increasing total health care costs… high U.S. private spending on health care, compared with spending in other advanced countries, just about wipes out any benefit we might receive from our relatively low tax burden.

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Against Learned Helplessness

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

May 29, 2011
…there are policies we could be pursuing to bring unemployment down. These policies would be unorthodox — but so are the economic problems we face. And those who warn about the risks of action must explain why these risks should worry us more than the certainty of continued mass suffering if we do nothing… As I see it, policy makers are sinking into a condition of learned helplessness on the jobs issue: the more they fail to do anything about the problem, the more they convince themselves that there’s nothing they could do.

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The Unwisdom of Elites

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

May 8, 2011
The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

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The Austerity Delusion

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

March 24, 2011
Why not slash deficits immediately? Because tax increases and cuts in government spending would depress economies further, worsening unemployment. And cutting spending in a deeply depressed economy is largely self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: any savings achieved at the front end are partly offset by lower revenue, as the economy shrinks.

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