In his latest column, New York Times columnist and award-winning economist Paul Krugman lays into the pro-austerity crowd for their recent claims of vindication.
While Krugman acknowledges that some of the countries that underwent austerity are seeing tepid signs of growth, he argues that this is hardly an endorsement of budget slashing and tax raising in a depressed economy, and that this mild growth is largely a consequence of less austerity — not more.
In that sense, he compares austerians to a Three Stooges joke in which Curly keeps ramming his head into the wall and, when asked why, replies, "Because it feels so good when I stop."
Economies do tend to grow unless they keep being hit by adverse shocks. It’s not surprising, then, that the British economy eventually picked up once Mr. Osborne let up on the punishment.
But is this a vindication of his austerity policies? Only if you accept Three Stooges logic, in which it makes sense to keep banging your head against a wall because it feels good when you stop.
Now, I’m well aware that the austerians may win political points all the same. Political scientists tell us that voters are myopic, that they judge leaders based on economic growth in the year or so before an election, not on overall performance in office. So a government can preside over years of depression, yet win re-election if it can engineer an uptick late in the game.
But that’s politics. When it comes to economics, there’s only one possible answer to the absurd triumphalism of the austerians: Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.