Deficit hawks are losing their clout:
Deficit Hawks Down, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: President Obama’s second Inaugural Address offered a lot for progressives to like. ... But arguably the most encouraging thing of all was what he didn’t say: He barely mentioned the budget deficit..., the latest sign that the self-styled deficit hawks — better described as deficit scolds — are losing their hold over political discourse. And that’s a very good thing.
Why have the deficit scolds lost their grip? I’d suggest four interrelated reasons.
First, they ... spent three years warning of imminent crisis — if we don’t slash the deficit now now now, we’ll turn into Greece... But that crisis keeps not happening ... So the credibility of the scolds has taken a ... well-deserved, hit.
Second, both deficits and public spending as a share of G.D.P. have started to decline..., and reasonable forecasts ... suggest that the federal deficit will be below 3 percent of G.D.P., a not very scary number, by 2015.
And it was, in fact, a good thing that the deficit was allowed to rise as the economy slumped. With private spending plunging..., the willingness of the government to keep spending was one of the main reasons we didn’t experience a full replay of the Great Depression. Which brings me to the third reason the deficit scolds have lost influence: the ... claim that we need to practice fiscal austerity even in a depressed economy, has failed decisively in practice. Consider ... the case of Britain. In 2010, when the new government of Prime Minister David Cameron turned to austerity policies,... the sudden, severe medicine ... threw the nation back into recession.
At this point, then, it’s clear that the deficit-scold movement was based on bad economic analysis. But ... there was also ... a lot of bad faith involved, as the scolds tried to exploit an economic (not fiscal) crisis on behalf of a political agenda that had nothing to do with deficits. And the growing transparency of that agenda is the fourth reason the deficit scolds have lost their clout. ... Prominent deficit scolds can no longer count on being treated as if their wisdom, probity and public-spiritedness were beyond question. But what difference will that make?
Sad to say, G.O.P. control of the House means that we won’t do what we should be doing: spend more, not less, until the recovery is complete. But the fading of deficit hysteria means that the president can turn his focus to real problems. And that’s a move in the right direction.