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Feb 4 / Jonathan

Much stimulating unhappiness

Paul Krugman, Martin Wolf, Yves Smith…

Shock and oy
Martin Wolf has it right:

First, focus all attention on reversing the collapse in demand now, rather than on the global architecture.

Second, employ overwhelming force. The time for “shock and awe” in economic policymaking is now.

Unfortunately, what is coming out of the US is desperately discouraging. Instead of an overwhelming fiscal stimulus, what is emerging is too small, too wasteful and too ill-focused. Instead of decisive action to recapitalise banks, which must mean temporary public control of insolvent banks, the US may be returning to the immoral and ineffective policy of bailing out those who now hold the “toxic assets”.

You know, it was widely expected that Obama would have a stimulus plan ready to pass Congress even before his inauguration. That didn’t happen. We were told that this was because the economic team was working flat out on the financial rescue.

In fact, when it comes to bank rescue it’s hard to see much evidence that anything was accomplished during all that time; the team is still — still! — running ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes. And the ideas look remarkably bad. (Welcome to the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill, Yves.)

Meanwhile, when it came to stimulus legislation, when Obama finally introduced his economic plan he immediately began negotiating with himself, preemptively offering concessions to the GOP, which voted against the plan anyway. (And Obama appears, in the name of bipartisanship, to have thrown away a Senate vote he may well need.)

As a wise man recently said, failure to act effectively risks turning this slump into a catastrophe. Yet there’s a sense, watching the process so far, of low energy. What’s going on?

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