June 14, 2010
The Germans are doing it. The Greeks, the Spanish and the Portuguese believe they have no choice but to do it. George Osborne believes it is his patriotic duty to do it. Around the world, cutting budget deficits has become the priority for policymakers fearful that rising debt levels will leave them at the mercy of capricious financial markets.
Mervyn King has applauded the return of fiscal conservatism. So has the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Two months after they urged that budgetary support be maintained until recovery was fully entrenched, finance ministers and central bank governors from the G20 said they welcomed the plans announced by some countries to begin deficit cutting without delay.
Budget deficits are certainly high across the G20 and beyond. But they are high primarily because of the severity of the worst recession since the second world war and because of the action taken collectively by governments to prevent that recession turning into something far, far worse.
As things stand, a second Great Depression has been averted, but growth has ranged from the weak in Europe to the unspectacular in the United States. Banks are not lending. Unemployment is running at near double-digit levels in the US and the eurozone. The determination to cut budget deficits in these circumstances does not show that policymakers of probity and integrity have replaced the irresponsible spendthrifts of 2008 and 2009. It shows that the lunatics are back in charge of the asylum.
This article was posted: Monday, June 14, 2010 at 4:28 am