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Friday, January 13, 2012

Paul Krugman: America Isn’t a Corporation

There's a big difference between "running a business and managing an economy":

America Isn’t a Corporation, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: ...the main plank of Mitt Romney’s case that he should be president ... is ... that what we need to fix our ailing economy is someone who has been successful in business. ...
But there’s a ... problem...: America is not, in fact, a corporation. Making good economic policy isn’t at all like maximizing corporate profits. And businessmen — even great businessmen — do not, in general, have any special insights into what it takes to achieve economic recovery.
Why isn’t a national economy like a corporation? ... Most ... giant corporations sell the great bulk of what they produce to other people, not to their own employees — whereas even small countries sell most of what they produce to themselves, and big countries like America are overwhelmingly their own main customers. ...
And the fact that we mostly sell to ourselves makes an enormous difference when you think about policy.
Consider what happens when a business engages in ruthless cost-cutting. From the point of view of the firm’s owners (though not its workers), the more costs that are cut, the better. ...
But the story is very different when a government slashes spending in the face of a depressed economy. Look at Greece, Spain, and Ireland, all of which have adopted harsh austerity policies. In each case, unemployment soared, because cuts in government spending mainly hit domestic producers. And, in each case, the reduction in budget deficits was much less than expected, because tax receipts fell as output and employment collapsed. ...
Did I mention that the last businessman to live in the White House was a guy named Herbert Hoover? (Unless you count former President George W. Bush.)
And there’s also the question of whether Mr. Romney understands the difference between running a business and managing an economy.
Like many observers, I was somewhat startled by his latest defense of his record at Bain — namely, that he did the same thing the Obama administration did when it bailed out the auto industry, laying off workers in the process. ...
But what really struck me was how Mr. Romney characterized President Obama’s actions: “He did it to try to save the business.” No, he didn’t; he did it to save the industry, and thereby to save jobs that would otherwise have been lost, deepening America’s slump. Does Mr. Romney understand the distinction?
America certainly needs better economic policies than it has right now — and while most of the blame for poor policies belongs to Republicans and their scorched-earth opposition to anything constructive, the president has made some important mistakes. But we’re not going to get better policies if the man sitting in the Oval Office next year sees his job as being that of engineering a leveraged buyout of America Inc.

    Posted by on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 12:32 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (63)


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