Paul Krugman: Uh-oh, we're just this screwed

Austerity failed, yet Britain's conservatives might be rewarded. There's a lesson for us, Paul Krugman argues today

Published April 6, 2015 10:25AM (EDT)

Paul Krugman                                                                                                                                                                     (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)
Paul Krugman (Reuters/Brendan Mcdermid)

Paul Krugman doesn't mention the Tea Party or the Republican party in today's New York Times column, but the warning he makes is clear and direct, regardless.

Krugman's looking at the disastrous austerity policies of the British government, which stalled growth as well as personal incomes. Taken as a whole, he argues, the ruling conservative party has done worse with the economy that the country's leadership did during the Great Depression.

But the "startlingly bad" record has begun to even out in recent months, just in time for an election, and for conservatives to argue that they are the stewards of prosperity. Nice try, argues Krugman, who wonders how they might possibly be getting away with it. He writes:

Well, you could blame the weakness of the opposition, which has done an absolutely terrible job of making its case. You could blame the fecklessness of the news media, which has gotten much wrong. But the truth is that what’s happening in British politics is what almost always happens, there and everywhere else: Voters have fairly short memories, and they judge economic policy not by long-term results but by recent growth. Over five years, the coalition’s record looks terrible. But over the past couple of quarters it looks pretty good, and that’s what matters politically.

It's not hard to see the lesson for Democrats. Slow, steady and responsible growth over eight years may not be rewarded by voters if there's a downturn in the summer of 2016.

One possible answer, which appeals to many pundits, might be to remove economic policy making from the political sphere and turn it over to nonpartisan elite commissions. This presumes, however, that elites know what they are doing — and it’s hard to see what, in recent events, might make you believe that. After all, American elites spent years in the thrall of Bowles-Simpsonism, a completely misplaced obsession over budget deficits. European elites, with their commitment to punitive austerity, have been even worse.

An optimistic start to the week! Read the entire column here.


By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Austerity Economics Media Criticism New York Times Paul Krugman Simpson-bowles