A Good Week For The Keynesians: A Day After Lawrence Summers Tells Congress To Boost Deficit Spending, IMF Report Says Greek Crisis Was Worsened By IMF’s Austerity Measures Hot

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“The (IMF) report said that the fund miscalculated the so-called multiplier, or the effect that adding or subtracting a dollar of government spending would have on the broader economy during the downturn,” according to The New York Times. “It underestimated the scale of what has proved to be a devastating Greek depression, fueled in part by sharp government spending cuts and tax increases.”
A day earlier, Summers, a former Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration and head of the National Economic Council for President Barack Obama until November 2010, offered testimony before Congress against cutting government deficit spending in the U.S.
Borrowing to support spending, either by the government or the private sector, raises demand and therefore increases output and employment above the level they otherwise would have reached. Unlike in normal times, these gains will not be offset by reduced private spending because there is substantial excess capacity in the economy, and cannot easily be achieved via monetary policies because base interest rates have already been reduced to zero. Multiplier effects operate far more strongly during financial crisis economic downturns than in other times.
It would not be desirable to undertake further measures to rapidly reduce deficits in the short run. Excessively rapid fiscal consolidation in an economy that is still constrained by lack of demand, and where space for monetary policy action is limited, risks slowing economic expansion at best and halting recovery at worst. Indeed, there is no compelling macroeconomic case for the deficit reduction now being achieved through sequestration, as the adverse impacts of spending cuts on GDP more or less offset their direct impacts in reducing debt.
Attention should be devoted to measures that reduce future deficits by pulling expenditures forward to the present when they have the additional benefit of increasing demand. It is important to recognize that just as increasing debt burdens future generations, so also does a failure to repair decaying infrastructure, or to invest adequately in funding pensions, or in educating the next generation burdens future generations. Wherever it is possible to reduce future public obligations by spending money today, we should take advantage of this opportunity especially given the very low level of interest rates. In particular, a major effort to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure has the potential to spur economic growth, raise future productive capacity and reduce future deficits. It should be a high priority.



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