Krugman's recipe for a new depression

Amity Shlaes:

Paul Krugman of the New York Times has been on the attack lately in regard to the New Deal. His new book "The Return of Depression Economics," emphasizes the importance of New Deal-style spending. He has said the trouble with the New Deal was that it didn't spend enough.

He's also arguing that some writers and economists have been misrepresenting the 1930s to make the effect of FDR's overall policy look worse than it was. I'm interested in part because Mr. Krugman has mentioned me by name. He recently said that I am the one "whose misleading statistics have been widely disseminated on the right."

...

What kept the picture so dark so long? Deflation for one, but also the notion that government could engineer economic recovery by favoring the public sector at the expense of the private sector. New Dealers raised taxes again and again to fund spending. The New Dealers also insisted on higher wages when businesses could ill afford them. Roosevelt, for example, signed into law first his National Recovery Administration, whose codes forced businesses to pay an above-market minimum wage, and then the Wagner Act, which gave union workers more power.

As a result of such policy, pay for workers in the later 1930s was well above trend. Mr. Ohanian's research documents this. High wages hurt corporate profits and therefore hiring. The unemployed stayed unemployed. "If you had a job you were all right" -- the phrase we all heard as children about the Depression -- really does capture the period.

Why does all this matter today? Because lawmakers are considering new labor legislation containing "card check," which would strengthen organized labor and so its wage demands. Because employees continue to pressure firms to spend on health care, without considering they may be making the company unable to hire an unemployed friend. Piling on public-sector jobs or raising wages may take away jobs in the private sector, directly or indirectly.

What the new administration decides about marginal tax rates also matters. Mr. Obama said in a Thanksgiving talk that he wanted to "create or save 2.5 million new jobs." People who talk about saving new jobs are usually talking about the private-sector's capacity to generate jobs in the future -- not about the public sector alone. We know that the new administration is going to spend. But how? It can try to figure out a way to do that without hurting the private sector. Or it can just spend, Krugman-wise, and risk repeating the very depression we seek to avoid.

The smartest course would be to cut taxes even more, but that is not in the Democrat playbook. Democrats are control freaks and they would rather increase spending so they could command how it is spent. It is a variation of the failed command economy model used by control freak governments in the 30s such as the fascist and the communist. It will slow growth.

Increasing the power of unions and inhibiting free trade were also mistakes government made during the depression. Both of those seem to be on the Obama agenda.

Comments

  1. We are deficit spending into the trillions, many (most?) state and local governments are fighting to avoid bankruptcy, and you want to cut taxes? How then is government spending to be financed? I'll tell you: through devaluation of the currency. And such was a major factor getting the Nazi's into power, by the way.

    We are not going to get away with the current levels of government spending. Cutting taxes accomplishes nothing without larger cuts in spending.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Russia attacking Iranian forces in Syria

Shortly after Nancy Pelosi visited Laredo, Texas and shook hands with mayor of Nuevo Laredo this happened