FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Job Killing Deficit Hawks

by DEAN BAKER

It’s budget time, and that means that we can expect to hear the Washington elite wailing about the budget deficit for the next several weeks. When hearing the cries about out-of-control deficits, people would be best advised to turn off their television sets, put down their newspaper, and smash their computers. (Okay, don’t smash your computer.)

The economy has one major problem right now and that is a serious lack of jobs. We still have more than 25 million people unemployed, underemployed, or who have given up looking for work altogether because there are no jobs. This should be the issue that everyone in Washington is talking about.

Instead, many politicians and pundits want to distract people’s attention from unemployment by complaining about the deficit. They have deceived many people into thinking that the economy would somehow be stronger and there would be more jobs if the deficit was reduced, either due to spending cuts or increased taxes.

This view makes no sense. There are no businesses that are going to hire additional workers because the government laid off school teachers or firefighters and we cut back spending on food stamps. Businesses hire more workers when they see more demand for their product. All of these actions that reduce the deficit, either on the spending or tax side, translate into less demand and therefore less employment. In short, those who want to cut the deficit now are lobbying for fewer jobs and higher unemployment.

This is only part of the story that they got wrong. The other part is the cause of the deficit. There are thousands of people running around Washington blaming the deficit on out-of-control spending or irresponsible tax cuts. Both sides are way off the mark.

It is easy show from the data that the huge deficits of the last three years are the direct result of the economic plunge caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. The budget deficit was actually quite modest in 2007, and it was projected to remain low in 2008-2010, even before the Bush era tax cuts expired.

However, the deficits came in much higher than projected because the collapse of the economy sent unemployment soaring and tax revenues plummeting. There is an irony in this situation. Back in the years 2002-2007 some of us were warning about the housing bubble, but our voices were largely drowned out by the big deficit hawks.

Of course now that the bubble has collapsed and the deficit has exploded we are still hearing the same complaints from the deficit hawks. If the country had paid less attention to the deficit hawks back in the bubble years, and more attention to the bubble, then we would not have had such a horrible recession and the deficit hawks would not have a large budget deficit to complain about today.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.

This article originally appeared on Economic Intelligence

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians to the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
Rivera Sun
Accountability: An Abandoned American Value
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
Robert Koehler
The Heart of Order
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
August 25, 2016
Mike Whitney
The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
The Louisiana Catastrophe Proves the Need for Universal, Single-Payer Disaster Insurance
John W. Whitehead
Another Brick in the Wall: Children of the American Police State
Lewis Evans
Genocide in Plain Sight: Shooting Bushmen From Helicopters in Botswana
Daniel Kovalik
Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads
Sam Husseini
How the Washington Post Sells the Politics of Fear
Ramzy Baroud
Punishing the Messenger: Israel’s War on NGOs Takes a Worrying Turn
Norman Pollack
Troglodyte Vs. Goebbelean Fascism: The 2016 Presidential Race
Simon Wood
Where are the Child Victims of the West?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail