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On their coat-tails

Written By: - Date published: 10:48 am, August 17th, 2009 - 39 comments
Categories: employment - Tags:

Jon Stewart talks to Austan Goolsbee, Chief Economist for President Obama’s Economic Recovery Board:

“when you’re looking in the face of the next great depression, that’s not the time to tighten the belt”

Now, I’m not as optimisitc as Goolsbee about the long-term outlook but thank goodness the governments of the major countries didn’t go down the slash and pray path we have here.

When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster.

39 comments on “On their coat-tails”

  1. ghostwhowalks 1

    We are allready falling behind Australia, since they have gone full bore for stimulus, in the last 9 months. Its starting to look like the 90s again

  2. Anthony Karinski 2

    “When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster.”

    That’s probably part of the reason, but “purely” the reason – really?

  3. vto 3

    Lordy, I hope these stimulus packages work as the alternative doesnt bear thinking about. As for riding on the coat-tails of others? Who gives a toss? Not me – the aussies and yanks have unthinkingly shafted us naive and minor kiwis countless times over the years (think apples to oz, agri subsidies in US, under-arm bowling, etc). They take advantage of their size when it suits them – let us do the same. No sympathy from me.

  4. Excuse me for a moment there, when you talked about free-riding on the backs of the expense other countries I assumed you were talking about defence.

    Silly me.

    But here’s another question, if you’re not tightening your belt in the face of recession, then when the hell are you? Or do you repudiate belt-tightening across the board?

    • ghostwhowalks 4.1

      free loading on the backs of other countries for defence ???
      Yeah right. The Italians are free loading on the Israelis , because they dont have a massive defence expenditure , well the fact that they are 3 hours by air away might have something to do with it.
      And Portugal is free loading off the Italians , again its 2.5 hours flight time.

      This free loading nonsense is peddled by Aussie interests, who essentially share a common border with Indonesia

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    “But here’s another question, if you’re not tightening your belt in the face of recession, then when the hell are you?”

    see Michael Cullen “tax cuts vs paying off debt”

    also ‘paradox of thrift’.

  6. Zaphod Beeblebrox 6

    Problem for us is that they will have something to show for their suffering through the recession. They will have a more export oriented, environmentally sustainable businesses with better infrastructure with health care and educational systems that will not be such drags on their societies. We will have- plans for for a cycleway private prisons and crushed boy racers cars.
    And a very poor reputation for protecting our social and environmental assets.

  7. Matthew Hooton 7

    So what about that poll, then?

    IrishBill: So what about that crap attempt to astroturf for two degrees? If I were them I’d be asking for my money back.

    • So Bored 7.1

      As they say “you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time”. You bitched and moaned ceaselessly for nine years, enjoy your three.

    • ghostwhowalks 7.2

      Its straight out of Agitprop 101.
      Set up a front organisation with well meaning dupes.
      A small concession to the 21st century by including the ‘Termincent’ name of the org providing the brains and cash well down the list.

      Provide a spokesman thats a well known tech savy public figure…oops couldnt find one , so the bottom the barrell , any old hack will do.

      Of course when the outsider makes it to join the big two, the front org is abandoned

  8. Bill 8

    When’s the “You’ve just been punked!” punchline going to be delivered to the working classes by the bankers, financiers and their political lackeys?

    There is planning for a cementing in of power and privilege. That’s all. There is no planning for a recovery.

    • A government can’t “plan” for a recovery, Bill. (Have you never heard of regime uncertainty?) They can only get out of the way so recovery can happen.

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Fair enough Peter, so should I put it this way? . There are massive ‘no strings attached’ bailout packages for the financial sector, and no concomitant ‘no strings attached’ recovery packages for .non-financial sectors of the economy.

        In contrast to your link suggesting that government get out of the way, Simon Johnston is one of the more conservative analysts I’ve come across (former chief economist of the IMF) writing in The Atlantic that it is the business elites who are blocking badly needed reforms and who need to get out of the way

        Further,Obama was quoted in the LA Times (April 19) In discussion with bank leaders moaning for ever higher bail out totals and bemoaning the unsympathetic public…”Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that. My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

        So, if the government got out of the way, then who would protect the financiers?

        The reality surrounding the crash and the scrabbling around by ex-Goldman Sachs employees at the helm of government protecting nobody’s arses but their own is, as a CBS(?) anchorman suggested, like putting OJ in charge of a murder crime scene.

  9. Sounds like you believe in leprechauns too, Zaphod.

    • So Bored 9.1

      Peter, I checked your link and found more fairy tales and leprechauns. Keynes and FDR got labelled as “socialists” for saving “market” systems from their inate tendency toward total collapse and a slide into totalitarianism, left or right.
      That type of historic revisionism certainly belongs with the Brothers Grimm.

      • If that’s all you got from that link, then it’s no wonder you’re bored.
        But if you have an actual response to what you read I’d be interested to hear it.

        By the way, if you truly believe that Keynes and FDR “saved” capitalism from “from their innate tendency toward total collapse and a slide into totalitarianism,” then I have several bridges to sell you, and some actual economic history to recommend.

        • ghostwhowalks 9.1.1.1

          Seen how well Latvia and Estonia are doing lately after following the advice of Ruth Richardson and co.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox 9.1.1.2

          Wow things must have been great prior to FDR. When we had no welfare state, public education, state health care, state highway system and money was tied to the gold standard. What a drag on the economy.

        • So Bored 9.1.1.3

          Oh dear Peter, you display your lack of reading, and a narrowness of viewpoint. Nobody has a monopoly on truth but the statements I made seem to have general agreement from both left and right sides of the fence, with the exception of the extreme edges. On the right that includes your sources, denial and revisionism from those who want to rerun total market failure. Its as silly as the left wanting to rerun the Soviet experiment.

          Keep your bridges and invest in some better narratives. I dont need to read any more from Chicago school acolytes.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 9.2

      Lets just agree to disagree on this one. Maybe I’ve over-interpreted the effect FDR had on the post-war boom and maybe I read too much Krugmann, Raulstan Saul and Ken Davison maybe I thought too little of Reagan and George W. and what they set in place.
      If I’m wrong you can remind in ten years time.

  10. Maybe I’ve over-interpreted the effect FDR had on the post-war boom. . .

    You certainly must have, since he died before the war ended, which was obviously enough long before the post-war boom.

    . . . maybe I thought too little of Reagan and George W. and what they set in place.. . .

    I have no idea what relevance these two might have to this particular discussion, since in this context both were advocates of your policies. Reagan left office with deficits higher than at any other time in US history, not to cure a depression, but just because he could.

    And George W. left even higher deficits, supposedly to create a stimulus whose results are yet to be seen.

    Fact is, if George W. has any economic/historic parallel on this whole question at all, it’s as Herbert Hoover to Obama’s FDR.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 10.1

      FDR’s social contract and welfare reform had far reaching economic consequences right up until the 1960s.

      George W and Reagan were elected on the platform of taxation reduction. They believed that lower taxes would magically reduce government debt as somehow rich people would be smart enough to spend their extra dollars in a way which would enable economic growth which would fund the loss of tax receipts. They believed in small government and the essential of superiority of private firms to be more efficient than government ones. Sound familiar.

      Goolsbie argues the opposite- that government can deliver spending in a manner that can benefit the economy through the multiplier effect. FDR showed us that.

      • Zaphod, you’re arguing that deficits work — you’re arguing that deficits always work. Yet you’re also arguing that Reagan’s and Bush’s mega deficits didn’t work.

        Sounds to me like you don’t know what you’re arguing,

        Goolsbie, it seems to me, is arguing that a depression isn’t the time to tighten the belt. I asked then if you’re not tightening your belt in the face of recession, then when the hell are you? Or do you repudiate belt-tightening across the board?

        Turns out you do, or else you don’t — or else you really just don’t know.

        In any case, you’re now arguing that “government can deliver spending in a manner that can benefit the economy through the multiplier effect,” and you say that ” FDR showed us that.”

        Well, he certainly showed is that deficits can delay recovery for years — as any comparison between the US in the late thirties and every other western industrial country would show you.

        And in any case, if it really were true that it was FDR’s enormous govt spending that rescued American from depression, then how can you explain the genuine post-war miracle, when after fifteen years of depression and four years of war, the government finally stopped spending like a drunken sailor (the deficit went from 21.5 percent of GDP in 1945 to a budget surplus of 1.7 percent of GDP two years later) yet despite this government parsimony ten million returning servicemen found employment in the resulting prosperity.

        Fact is, your simple theorem of “government spending good” does not hold up, even (if not especially) in the depressionary situation you assert that it does.

        • Pascal's bookie 10.1.1.1

          ninety percent top marginal tax rates, combined with not having to fund a war anymore will certainly kick the shit out of a deficit right quick, I’ll grant you that. 😉

  11. no leftie 11

    “When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster.”

    So we get out of recession without borrowing billions more and that’s a bad thing.

    Good luck selling that message.

  12. gingercrush 12

    Its wrong to suggest National isn’t providing a stimulus. And talk to most right-wingers and in the area of government spending. They’ll tell you National hasn’t done nearly enough. What I do know is that I’m very happy National didn’t borrow billions of money simply for stimulus. Other countries have done that. Some is of course necessary and justifiable. Some like Australia should find that stimulus pays for itself rather quickly. (I really think they’re unique as a first-world country. Where everyone is scared to spend, they spend). I certainly believe their stimulus helped them. But I think their culture has a lot going for it too. They were also showing good growth when the recession hit unlike other countries particularly ours. We’re set to go into economic growth like other countries. Some of it will be on the back of other countries. Naturally because we spend more than we earn we are reliant on the borrowing of overseas. We’re always dependent on other countries. Likewise, our exports are dependent on other countries demanding goods and services.

    Our economy does have some problems. Namely, our growth doesn’t appear to be with exports. Thus if we grow solely on consumerism as we did during much of this decade. We’ll re-enter a recession rather soon. I am however optimistic that eventually our exports will rebound and this should help growing our economy. John Key and National have a difficult job. On one hand they have to satisfy their own base while also appeasing the centrist voters. On another they’ve inherited a bad economy whose growth prospects aren’t likely to be as good as they have been in the past.

    The real area that is problematic for me is that eventually certain costs (global warming, oil, natural resources) are going to become ever more scarce while government and person debt is growing. That sets a path for future world-wide problems. Something many of those stimulus-loving governments are not addressing and unlikely to address. The huge borrowing governments have done since the banking crisis will cause problems in the future. As a small player in the world-scene that will impact us.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 12.1

      What about the problems of private borrowing? Hasn’t that caused a few problems too?

      • gingercrush 12.1.1

        Certainly. Hence me pointing to consumerism and how we really don’t want to grow via consumerism.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox 12.1.1.1

          Can’t argue with that. Labour did nothing to stop private spending, are National going to be any better?

          • Lanthanide 12.1.1.1.1

            Perhaps. Blinglish is suggesting that capital gains tax might be a goer, and also potentially rising GST.

            Both would tend to suggest that National want to target consumerism.

  13. gomango 13

    Surrender Zaphod before its too late – wikipedia will only get you so far when arguing about economics.

    I’d argue that we are going down the “slash and pray” route here – can someone with more time than me look at the actual spending/ spending growth assumed in NZ for say 2008/09/10/11? I don’t think you’ll see any slashing and burning except in the rate of growth (correct me if I am wrong).

    For a completely contrary view to Goolsbee check out the comments from Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb and Marc Faber (all three far more credible although Goolsbee is mostly ok particularly on his free trade thinking, but he doesnt have the heft of Roubini or the insight of Taleb and Faber) from CNBC on Thursday night – I think you’ll prob see the clips on either cnbc or roubinis website – he was guest host for two hours. I think Roubini particularly has the most gravitas when talking about this crisis and the palans to exit it. He was one of the few who warned in detail while we were still in bull market mode – his prescription for getting out isn’t this inefficient, wasteful “spend and hope” strategy which will burden future taxpayers with real debt and a debased currency. I liked Talebs comment about “Bernanke is a criminal, throw him in jail”, though perhaps a little harsh. I think Greenspan was more to blame than Bernanke.

    And as for When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster. – isn’t that the perfect outcome? I would say well done to the govt if that eventuates.

  14. gomango 14

    Surrender Zaphod before its too late – wikipedia will only get you so far when arguing about economics.

    I’d argue that we are going down the “slash and pray” route here – can someone with more time than me look at the actual spending/ spending growth assumed in NZ for say 2008/09/10/11? I don’t think you’ll see any slashing and burning except in the rate of growth (correct me if I am wrong).

    For a completely contrary view to Goolsbee check out the comments from Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb and Marc Faber (all three far more credible although Goolsbee is mostly ok particularly on his free trade thinking, but he doesnt have the heft of Roubini or the insight of Taleb and Faber) from CNBC on Thursday night – I think you’ll prob see the clips on either cnbc or roubinis website – he was guest host for two hours. I think Roubini particularly has the most gravitas when talking about this crisis and the plans to exit it. He was one of the few who warned in detail while we were still in bull market mode – his prescription for getting out isn’t this inefficient, wasteful “spend and hope” strategy which will burden future taxpayers with real debt and a debased currency. I liked Talebs comment about “Bernanke is a criminal, throw him in jail”, though perhaps a little harsh. I think Greenspan was more to blame than Bernanke.

    And as for When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster. – isn’t that the perfect outcome? I would say well done to the govt if that eventuates.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 14.1

      The question in my mind is how do we avoid the periodic economic crises that have beset the western economies since the mid 1850s?

      Seems to me we came closest after WW2 when government regulation of financial activity was at its highest and government’s accepted a responsibility to fund health care, education and look after the poor.

      The current crisis is a result of private debt not government overspending. What has the current NZ govt done to remedy that?

  15. gomango 15

    sorry – didnt mean to post twice – feel free to delete one. Just saw this quote from Goolsbee:

    “Make no mistake: Deficits still matter. A balanced budget may be less central to economic growth today than in the 1990s. But deficit reduction now functions as a crucial insurance policy against global financial shocks and over-reliance on foreign lenders, as well as national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast. It should not be a goal in and of itself — pain for pain’s sake. Fiscal responsibility should be our goal because it remains an important foundation of economic justice and growth.’ (Progressive Policy Institute policy report, April 30, 2007. )

  16. darryl 16

    “When we come out of this recession, it will be purely because we have free-ridden on the back of the expense other countries went to in an effort to head-off disaster.’

    Well, we actually went into recession because of these other countries as well and the only way for us to come out is if these other countries do, as they are our trading partners.

    If the person you’re trying to sell stuff to has no money then that means you have no money either.

  17. gomango 17

    Zaphod – fair question, but i think the answer is that you don’t really want to. I actually think wrt to the post war period you are missing three points 1. regulation wasn’t actually that heavy – you didnt need it as there were greater barriers to entry of new competitors, we had more monopolies, more tariffs, more protectionism etc, the existing players worked in a monopolistic or monopsonistic fashion with a wink from the govt. And 2) this luckily didn’t stifle the NZ economy due to the fortunate (unless you were in it) korean war wool boom, and protein/butter demand from a war starved europe.

    All the old money families in NZ got old money mostly because they were on the lucky side of trade barriers,and were able to rip out super profits accordingly – NZ certainly wasnt some benevolent, egalitarian workers paradise in the 50s and 60s. And 3), the governments commitment to social welfare, health etc are far, far greater now in every western economy than they ever were back then. Michael Savage would be horrified by the extent of the social welfare business today- its not what he envisioned. DPB for instance? How do you think he’d regard that?

    You have to have an occasional cleaning out of the economy – it is a result of human nature and human emotion – what you can do is have a certain level of safety net, consumer protection, workers rights etc in place to protect the weakest. But you can never legislate away or centrally plan away the boom bust cycle. Not even Singapore can do that. In 3 years time we’ll look back at the 2007-2009 recession and say – “that wasn’t so bad”. Certainly the late 80s and early 90s were a lot worse than we’ll see now.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 17.1

      But will we have learnt anything? Or will we just go on buying Plasma TV’s, houses and yachts?

  18. gomango 18

    No probably not. If we learnt anything it wouldn’t happen again. And its not just Plasma TVs, houses and yachts. Its also tulips, south sea trading company shares, US railways, Florida housing (read JK Galbraith and then wonder why we have never learnt anything), nifty 50 stocks etc etc

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