Thursday, September 23, 2010

No REALLY -- Austerity is A Really Terrible Idea That Doesn't Work

From the NY Times on June 28:

As Europe’s major economies focus on belt-tightening, they are following the path of Ireland. But the once thriving nation is struggling, with no sign of a rapid turnaround in sight.


Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations.

“When our public finance situation blew wide open, the dominant consideration was ensuring that there was international investor confidence in Ireland so we could continue to borrow,” said Alan Barrett, chief economist at the Economic and Social Research Institute of Ireland. “A lot of the argument was, ‘Let’s get this over with quickly.’ ”

Rather than being rewarded for its actions, though, Ireland is being penalized. Its downturn has certainly been sharper than if the government had spent more to keep people working. Lacking stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1 percent last year and remains in recession.

From today's FT:

Ireland failed to emerge from recession after its economy contracted in the second quarter, putting further pressure on the country’s government to deal with its struggling banks.

The Central Statistics Office said on Thursday that gross domestic product fell by 1.2 per cent in the three months to the end of June. This compares with growth of 2.2 per cent in the first quarter.

I realize that data is anathema to political discourse now; ideology trumps all. But, in the wild hope that data (you know, facts and figures) actually matter to someone, the above facts do not bode well for austerity.