Monday, August 2, 2010

The Consequences of Indulging the Deficit Hawks: Deflation and Disaster

The Wall Street Journal today has findings threatening deflation. While a lot of people are familiar with the spectacular collapses of countries like Zimbabwe due to hyperinflation, and the right does a great job of playing up the threat of moderate inflation as a way to sell gold bullion, deflation is the real nightmare scenario - a death spiral of falling prices and wages that can dig the economy into a hole that's nearly impossible to escape. The story, naturally, makes no mention of the inconvenient political context - that even as deflation looms, the Right for which the Journal is a (relatively sane) mouthpiece is still banging the drum for deficit reduction, when Keynesian deficit spending is exactly what the economy needs in its current state.

Sometimes I feel that the average liberal regards the stupidest gestures of the right as charming quirks. This is obviously what's happened with Sarah Palin - liberals follow her tweets and joke about her because they regard her as about as consequential as a Troll doll, a mere piece of entertainment. In her case, that may ultimately be true, but when it comes to the ignoramuses shouting for deficit cuts in the middle of a recession/tentative recovery, we can't afford to indulgently laugh at these strange people who apparently have forgotten the biggest lesson of Hoover's fiscal policy and its consequences. When you understand a few things about how the world works, it may be far too easy to remember that some people don't have a clue, but still have the power to act on their ignorance.

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