Michael Roberts pune întrebarea de bază: ce efecte au avut măsurile de austeritate? Răspunsul nu e chiar surprinzător, decât poate pentru promotorii acesteia și ideologii lor.
Austerity: has it worked?
Most governments in capitalist economies have engaged in what is loosely called ‘austerity’ policies since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. More precisely, austerity policies are those where the government aims to reduce its annual deficit on spending and revenues and shrink the overall debt burden, plus introduce ‘reforms’ to weaken the labour rights and conditions at work to keep wage costs down for the capitalist sector. The fiscal part of these austerity measures mainly involved cutting back on government spending, both in public sector employment, wages, public services and investment projects.
Those economists and governments that advocated austerity claimed that by getting debt ‘under control’, costs would be reduced and companies would invest, consumers would spend and economies would recover quickly. Keynesians and others who opposed these measures reckoned that austerity would drive down ‘aggregate demand’ as government spending was cut, taxes raised and wages held down. The way out of the crisis was to borrow more, not less and spend more not less.
The debate continues. In my view, both sides are right and wrong. See my posts on this:
The Austerians recognise that the key to a capitalist economy recovering is to reduce costs for the capitalist sector by cutting wages and government taxation so that profitability can rise. Raising wages or increasing government spending, as the Keynesians advocate, would reduce profitability at a time when it needs to rise. However, the Keynesians recognise that, once an economy is in a slump and labour incomes are falling, cutting them further can worsen the fall in consumer spending and investment demand and for some time. It’s not quite Catch 22; but looks like it for a while.
In a recent study, the IMF considered the question of whether austerity worked. The IMF found that if governments did not spend too much when economies were growing and spent more when economies were in a slump, then this would act as a counter-cyclical buffer to the volatility of the capitalist sector. The IMF quantified this effect as cutting “output volatility by about 15 percent, with a growth dividend of about 0.3 percentage point annually”. The IMF optimistically reckoned that “Stability, growth and debt sustainability could all greatly benefit if measures that destabilize output, such as spending increases in good times, were avoided”.