Posted by Ron F in unemployment, Spending, Risk, recovery, recession, Obama, jobs, joblessness, global economy, Germany, economy, demand, consumer spending, climate change, clean energy, Careers/Management, carbon emissions, Capital, cap and trade, Barry Ritholtz, alternative energy
At long last, one writer has seriously addressed the potential problems with more stimulus spending. (I sent Paul Krugman a question about this more than a week ago, via a comment on his blog, but from what I can see he has yet to address it. And Dean Baker too easily dismisses the issue, in my opinion.)
The problem is not the federal budget deficit, not at least in the short term, but the potential political fallout from bad decision making. That way, says Steve Randy Waldman, indeed lay a possible US currency crisis. And this is ultimately where Friedrich Hayek and his associates were coming from in blaming Weimar for the disasters that followed.
But as Waldman says, that's not an argument for austerity. Quite the contrary, it's an argument for stimulus that makes sense. And that makes sense to me, as I can't help but think Keynes was not really joking when he said the government could bury cash in the ground for the unemployed to dig up and that would be just as effective as more productive types of capital investments. The issue, according to Keynes, was aggregate demand, pure and simple, end of story.
Alas, not entirely, says Waldman. He insists that Keynes, like followers who subscribe to Modern Monetary Theory, ignores the "second-order" political effects of poor capital allocation that manifest themselves as alienation from the institutions on which the nation depends. It's too easy to dismiss such alienation as crack-pot Tea Partyism.
Still, Waldman is a bit vague as to what kinds of government-directed capital investments would make sense, since that's not the point of his post.
So today Barry Ritholtz steps into the breach with a speech he wishes some US president would make.
Hint: Think, as many critics of President Obama's recent speech have done, of the Gulf oil disaster and what is suggests about US energy policy. But to Ritholtz and Waldman and others not content with traditional Keynesianism, myself included, that's just the start of what needs to be done.
Otherwise, as Tom Englehardt writes, I worry that we will go the way of the Soviet Union, and not just because we mistake military might with true power.
Afghanistan was just the straw that broke the camel's back for the Soviets. The system was rotting from within, ready to implode. Ours looks increasingly fragile as well at the moment. Yet it strikes me as perfectly karmic that we have much the same problem with Kabul that the Russians did.