Tag Archives: austerity

Get a TAN, Yanis: A Timely Alternative Financing Instrument for Greece

By Rob Parenteau

The recent election of an explicitly anti-austerity party in Greece has upset the prevailing policy consensus in the eurozone, and raised a number of issues that have remained ignored or suppressed in policy circles. Expansionary fiscal consolidations have proven largely elusive. The difficulty of achieving GDP growth while reaching primary fiscal surplus targets is very evident in Greece. Avoiding rapidly escalating government debt to GDP ratios has consequently proven very challenging. Even if the arithmetic of avoiding a debt trap can be made to work, the rise of opposition parties in the eurozone suggests there are indeed political limits to fiscal consolidation. The Ponzi like nature of requesting new loans in order to service prior debt obligations, especially while nominal incomes are falling, is a third issue that Syriza has raised, and it is one that informed their opening position of rejecting any extension of the current bailout program.

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Syriza Wins and the NYT and WSJ Coverage Competes for Mendacity

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 25, 2015

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Time’s eurozone reporters, who share the same unshakable devotion to TINA and austerity as the Murdochized WSJ news staff have been thrown into a panic by Syriza’s electoral successes in Greece.

Both papers are freaked out, as are the Germans, about the potential for Greece to spark a wave of rejections of the troika’s infliction of austerity in a manner similar to how the infliction of self-destructive austerity programs pursuant to the Washington Consensus’ demands led to the “lost decade” and the democratic election of what is now over a dozen Latin American candidates running on anti-austerity platforms. The Washington Consensus was drafted and named by an economist at Pete Peterson’s International Institute. Peterson is a Wall Street billionaire whose mission is causing debt and deficit hysteria and plugging the joys of austerity and unraveling the safety nets. His greatest goal is privatizing Social Security – producing hundreds of billions in additional fees for Wall Street.

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The Triumph of Radical Right Economics in Greece – At the Hands of “Socialists”

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 19, 2015

In my January 18, 2015 column, I explained that German Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s sweetest triumph was successfully extorting George Papandreou, Greece’s Prime Minister, head of the Greek Socialist Movemnt (PASOK), and President of the Socialist International, to inflict austerity and a war on workers’ wages on the Greek people.  I quoted a passage from the Papandreou administration’s  May 3, 2010, “Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies” (the Papandreou Plan) agreeing to the European Commission’s (EC) austerity and anti-worker demands that was made part of The EC’s  Occasional Papers No. 61 “The Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece” (May 2010).

In this column I explain how radically right-wing the Papandreou Plan was and the completeness with which it embraced rather than resisted the troika’s theoclassical nostrums that forced Greece, Italy, and Spain into gratuitous second Great Depressions.  In Greece’s case, the Merkel Great Depression has proven more severe and longer in duration than the Great Depression of 80 years ago.  The EC’s Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece description of the Papandreou Plan was accurate.  The Greek leaders “strongly own and support the [austerity] programme policies and objectives.”

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The New York Times Fears that Syriza Will Put “Ordinary Greeks First”

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 18, 2015

Even when the New York Times seems to think it is trying to open minded about the troika’s infliction of austerity on the peoples of the eurozone, its reporters are infected by the bizarre notion that austerity was the economically sensible response to the Great Recession. Even more bizarrely they are infected with the view that more austerity is the sensible response to the worse-than-Great Depressions that austerity inflicted on Greece, Italy, and Spain. The latest installment is entitled “Party Leader’s Populist Pitch in Greece Could Pay Off.”

The article does not explain what a “populist pitch” is (other than alliterative string of four plosives in a single title). The mainstream press uses “populist” as a pejorative term synonymous with class warfare against the wealthy that ignores economic reality.

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Greece, the Troika, and the New York Times

By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: December 29, 2014

As I have explained in prior articles, there is an excellent chance that the Troika’s infliction of austerity on the eurozone’s periphery could, as with the austerity inflicted under the Washington Consensus continue to produce such long-term rolling recessions that it creates a political dynamic that discredits such economic malpractice and brings to power leaders elected on the promise that they will adopt economically literate policies. The first case of this in the eurozone could be Greece. (Hollande won office on a platform of opposing inflicting austerity on France, but purged his government of those that most strongly opposed austerity and implemented policies that moved increasingly toward austerity. The French economy stagnated and Hollande’s approval ratings are dismal.)

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The Way Out of Shutdown Shenanigans

Today, I received an e-mail from the Friends of (the very popular with progressives) Senator Bernie Sanders. In it the Senator says:

I’m joining with the members of Progressives United to send a clear message to President Obama that we will stand with him when he vetoes Republican legislation that attacks the well-being of the struggling middle class.

Join me and members of Progressives United to urge the president to VETO any Republican legislation that attacks working families.

NO to cuts in Social Security. NO to cuts in Medicaid. NO to converting Medicare into a voucher program. NO to new trade legislation that sends our jobs overseas and hammers our middle-class workers. NO to cuts to nutrition programs, education or environmental protection.

YES to raising the minimum wage. YES to a massive jobs program rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. YES to transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels. YES to pay equity for women workers. YES to overturning Citizens United.

We already know what “compromise” will mean from a Republican Congress: their way or the highway. In order to win in the future, President Obama must stand strong for the American middle class, and we must support him.

Tell President Obama: Standing firm is the only option, and that means committing to VETO legislation that attacks working families, and fighting for legislation that defends their needs.

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The New York Times Misses the Irony of Austerity and Economic Illiteracy

By William K. Black

The New York Times published a story by Liz Alderman dated November 17, 2014 entitled “As Japan Falls Into Recession, Europe Looks to Avoid It.” The article begins with a burst of (unattributed) economic illiteracy.

“Japan looked like the model for economic revival. Growth was back on track. The stock market was surging. Inflation, which had eluded Japan for decades, was even returning.

But Japan’s grand economic experiment, a combination of fiscal discipline and monetary stimulus, is collapsing. On Monday, the country unexpectedly fell into recession, a downturn that has painful implications for the rest of the world.

Japan’s unorthodox strategy was supposed to offer a road map for other troubled economies, notably Europe. Fiscal belt-tightening and tax increases, while leaning on the central bank to pump money into the economy, was expected to help overcome a malaise.”

In a prior column I gave mock praise to Alderman because after editorializing for eurozone austerity for years in her columns she finally admitted that “many economists” criticized those policies. I cautioned, however, that the NYT reporters, including Alderman, assigned to cover the eurozone “are austerians to the core.” Here comments about Europe and Japan prove my point. First, Japan did not look like “the model for economic revival” when it endorsed austerity through sharp increases in its sales tax. It looked like a model for a gratuitous recession. The stock market surge and moving towards achieving desirable levels of modest inflation occurred in part in response to the fiscal stimulus that the new Japanese government decided to replace with fiscal austerity. But other government policies were more important in explaining these results – and explaining why they were artificial. By announcing the rise in the sales tax from five to eight percent in advance the government spurred a sharp increase in consumption of durable goods prior to the increase. By moving government funds from safer investments to stock purchases the government spurred a rise in the stock market.

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Germany’s Passive-Aggressive “Stimulus” Program

By William K. Black
Kilkenny, Ireland: November 7, 2014

Kilkenomics, being a festival of economists and comedians, has long reflected the economic consensus that austerity in response to a Great Recession is economic malpractice akin to bleeding a patient to make him healthy. One of the great changes in Europe in the last month is that the number of economic voices willing to make this same point have grown rapidly. Germany’s “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity claims were always absurd, but now many more European voices are willing to point out that there are superb alternatives – in Germany. A recent Irish Times article provides a good example.

“Leading economists have criticised Germany on its public investment restraint which, at 18.4 per cent of GDP, is below the EU average of 19.2 per cent. A study by Berlin’s DIW economic think tank suggests a €1 trillion backlog has built up in Germany since 2000.”

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Piketty’s Neoliberal Capital

Let’s get this out of the way. I agree with Piketty’s overall conclusion in Capital about inequality, that: the distribution of wealth in many industrial nations is highly unequal, wealth concentration has been increasing; and there is a high likelihood that the extent of wealth inequality will continue to grow unless appropriate fiscal policy is used to reverse current trends. However, I don’t agree with:

— the framework he uses to define and specify “capital”;

— the way he looks at Government finance and net worth; and

— the fiscal policy proposals he offers to reduce Inequality and put a stop to current trends of growth in the capital to income ratio.

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The New York Times Finally Allows Competent EU Commentators

By William K. Black

As my regular readers know, the NYT coverage of the EU financial crisis has been shameful, economically illiterate, and harmful. In the last two weeks, however, that coverage has finally begun to mention the concept of inadequate demand, the fact that governmental spending can provide demand, and that austerity is not the only available choice. In the last 10 days the coverage even began to quote economists who made the point that austerity is the problem rather than the solution. This modest improvement has taken six years, two gratuitous Great Recessions, and Great Depressions for about one-third the eurozone’s population.

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