Why New York Times Economist Paul Krugman Is Partly Right But Mostly Wrong

In recent days, New York Times economist Paul Krugman has been doing a whole bunch of interviews in which he has declared that the solution to our economic problems is very easy.  Krugman says that all we need to do to get the global economy going again is for the governments of the world to start spending a lot more money.  Krugman believes that austerity is only going to cause the economies of the industrialized world to slow down even further and therefore he says that it is the wrong approach.  And you know what?  Krugman is partly right about all of this.  The false prosperity that the United States and Europe have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt, and in order to maintain that level of false prosperity we are going to need even larger amounts of debt.  But there are several reasons why Krugman is mostly wrong.  First of all, we have not seen any real “austerity” yet.  Even though there have been some significant spending cuts and tax increases over in Europe, the truth is that nearly every European government is still piling up more debt at a frightening pace.  Here in the United States, the federal government continues to spend more than a trillion dollars a year more than it brings in.  If the United States were to go to a balanced federal budget, that would be austerity.  What we have now is wild spending by the federal government beyond anything that John Maynard Keynes ever dreamed of.  Secondly, Krugman focuses all of his attention on making things more comfortable for all of us in the short-term without even mentioning what we might be doing to future generations.  Yes, more government debt would give us a short-term economic boost, but it would also make the long-term financial problems that we are passing on to our children even worse.

It is important to understand that Paul Krugman is a hardcore Keynesian.  He believes that national governments can solve most economic problems simply by spending more money.  His prescription for the U.S. economy in 2012 was summarized in a recent Rolling Stone article….

The basic issue, says Krugman, is a lack of demand. American consumers and businesses, aren’t spending enough, and efforts to get them to open their wallets have gone nowhere. Krugman’s solution: The federal government needs to step in and spend. A lot. On debt relief for struggling homeowners; on infrastructure projects; on aid to states and localities; on safety-net programs. Call it “stimulus” if you like. Call it Keynesian economics, after the great economic thinker (and Krugman idol) John Maynard Keynes, who first championed the idea that government has an essential role in saving the free market from its own excesses.

So is Krugman right?

Would the U.S. economy improve if the federal government borrowed and spent an extra half a trillion dollars this year for example?

Yes, it would.

But it would also get us half a trillion dollars closer to bankruptcy as a nation.

Krugman claims that “austerity” has failed, but the truth is that we have not even seen any real “austerity” yet.

When a government spends more than it brings in, that is not real austerity.

People talk about the “austerity” that we have seen in places such as Greece and Spain, but the truth is that both nations are still piling up huge amounts of new debt.

So let’s not pretend that the western world is serious about austerity.

The goal for most European nations at this point is to get their debts down to “sustainable” levels.

But for economists such as Krugman, this is a very bad idea.  Krugman insists that cutting government spending during a recession is a very stupid thing to do.  The following is from one of his recent articles in the New York Times….

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. According to this doctrine, governments should respond to a severely depressed economy not the way the textbooks say they should — by spending more to offset falling private demand — but with fiscal austerity, slashing spending in an effort to balance their budgets.

Critics warned from the beginning that austerity in the face of depression would only make that depression worse. But the “austerians” insisted that the reverse would happen. Why? Confidence! “Confidence-inspiring policies will foster and not hamper economic recovery,” declared Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank — a claim echoed by Republicans in Congress here. Or as I put it way back when, the idea was that the confidence fairy would come in and reward policy makers for their fiscal virtue.

Yes, Krugman is correct that government austerity measures will only make a recession worse.

Just look at what has happened in Greece.  Wave after wave of austerity measures has pushed Greece into an economic depression.  If you want to see what austerity has done to the unemployment rate in Greece, just check out this chart.

As other nations across Europe have taken measures to get debt under control, we have seen similar economic results all across the continent.

The overall unemployment rate in the eurozone has hit 10.9 percent which is a new all-time high, and youth unemployment rates throughout Europe are absolutely skyrocketing.

Right now there are already 12 countries in Europe that are officially in a recession, and in many European nations manufacturing activity is slowing down dramatically.

So, yes, austerity is not helping short-term economic conditions in Europe.

But what are the nations of the western world supposed to do?

According to Krugman, they are supposed to run up gigantic amounts of new debt indefinitely.

And that is what the United States is doing right now.  But at some point the clock strikes midnight and all of a sudden you have become the “next Greece”.

U.S. government debt is already rising much, much faster than U.S. GDP is.

Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26 percent, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61 percent during that same time period.

Today, the U.S. national debt is equivalent to 101.5 percent of U.S. GDP.

But Paul Krugman does not consider this to be a major problem.

The Obama administration is currently stealing approximately 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour to finance our reckless spending, but for Paul Krugman that is not nearly good enough.

To Krugman, the only thing that is important is what is happening right now.  Apparently the future can be thrown into the toilet as far as he is concerned.

The founder of PIMCO, Bill Gross, told CNBC on Tuesday that the U.S. government is likely to be hit with another credit rating downgrade this year if something is not done about our exploding debt.

The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.

But Krugman insists that the solution to our economic problems is even more debt and even more spending.

In a previous article, I detailed how we are doomed if the U.S. government keeps spending money wildly like this and we are doomed if the U.S. governments stops spending money wildly like this.

If we keep running trillion dollar deficits every year, at some point our financial system will collapse, the U.S. dollar will fail, and we will essentially be facing national bankruptcy.

But if the federal government stops borrowing and spending money like this, our debt-fueled prosperity will rapidly disappear, unemployment will shoot well up into double digits, and we will soon have mass rioting in major U.S. cities.

The truth is that we have already been following Paul Krugman’s economic prescription for the nation for decades.  Our 15 trillion dollar party has funded a standard of living unlike anything the world has ever seen, but the party is coming to an end.

The Federal Reserve is trying to keep the party going by buying up huge amounts of government debt.  The Fed actually purchased approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011.

It is a shell game that cannot go on for too much longer.

The national debt crisis can be delayed for a while, but at some point the house of cards is going to come crashing down on top of us all.

If Paul Krugman wanted to talk about real solutions he could talk about shutting down the Federal Reserve and he could talk about going to an entirely debt-free currency.

But we all know that is not going to happen, don’t we?

As I have written about before, the Federal Reserve was designed to be a perpetual government debt machine.  The system was designed to have the amount of money and the amount of government debt constantly expand.

And it has been working quite well in that regard.  At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

But Paul Krugman is not going to talk about the real issues.  Instead, he is just going to keep running around declaring that more government spending and more government debt will solve all of our problems.

It is a very big lie, but millions of people are going to believe it.

22 Signs That The Collapsing Spanish Economy Is Heading Into A Great Depression

What happens when debt-fueled false prosperity disappears?  Just look at Spain.  The 4th largest economy in the eurozone was riding high during the boom years, but now the Spanish economy is collapsing with no end in sight.  When a debt bubble gets interrupted, the consequences can be rather chaotic.  Just like we saw in Greece, austerity is causing the economy to slow down in Spain.  But when the economy slows down, tax revenues fall and that makes it even more difficult to meet budget targets.  So even more austerity measures are needed to keep debt under control and the cycle just keeps going.  Unfortunately, even with all of the recently implemented austerity measures the Spanish government is still not even close to a balanced budget.  Meanwhile, the housing market in Spain is crashing and unemployment is already above 24 percent.  The Spanish banking system is a giant, unregulated mess that is on the verge of a massive implosion, and the Spanish stock market has been declining rapidly.  The Spanish government is going to need a massive bailout and so will the entire Spanish banking system.  But that is going to be a huge problem, because the Spanish economy is almost 5 times as large as the Greek economy.  When the Spanish financial system collapses, the entire globe is going to feel the pain and there will be no easy solution.

So just how bad are things in Spain at this point?

The following are 22 signs that the collapsing Spanish economy is heading into a great depression….

#1 The unemployment rate in Spain has reached 24.4 percent – a new all-time record high.  Back in April 2007, the unemployment rate in Spain was only 7.9 percent.

#2 The unemployment rate in Spain is now higher than the U.S. unemployment rate was during any point during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#3 According to CNBC, some analysts are projecting that the unemployment rate in Spain is going to go above 30 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 in Spain is now a whopping 52 percent.

#5 There are more than 47 million people living in Spain today.  Only about 17 million of them have jobs.

#6 Retail sales in Spain have declined for 21 months in a row.

#7 The Bank of Spain has officially confirmed that Spain has already entered another recession.

#8 Last week, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services slashed Spain’s credit rating from A to BBB+.

#9 The yield on 10-year Spanish bonds is up around 6 percent again.  That is considered to be very dangerous territory.

#10 Two of Spain’s biggest banks have announced that they are going to stop increasing their holdings of Spanish government debt.

#11 Of all the loans held by Spanish banks, 8.15 percent are considered to be “bad loans”.

#12 The total value of all bad loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#13 Of all real estate assets held by Spanish banks, more than 50 percent of them are considered to be “troubled” by the Spanish government.

#14 That total amount of money loaned out by Spanish banks is equivalent to approximately 170 percent of Spanish GDP.

#15 Home prices in Spain fell by 11.2 percent last year, and the number of property repossessions in Spain rose by a staggering 32 percent during 2011.

#16 Spanish housing prices are now down 25 percent from the peak of the housing market and Citibank’s Willem Buiter expects the eventual decline to be somewhere around 60 percent.

#17 It is being projected the the economy of Spain will shrink by 1.7 percent this year, although there are some analysts that feel that projection is way too optimistic.

#18 The Spanish government has announced a ban on all cash transactions larger than 2,500 euros.

#19 One key Spanish stock index has already fallen by more than 19 percent so far this year.

#20 The Spanish government recently admitted that its 2011 budget deficit was much larger than originally projected and that it probably will not meet its budget targets for 2012 either.

#21 Spain’s debt to GDP ratio is projected to rise by more than 11 percent during 2012.

#22 Worldwide exposure to Spanish debt is estimated to be well over a trillion euros.

Spain is going down the exact same road that Greece went down.

Greece is already suffering through a great depression and now Spain is joining them.  The following is from a recent BBC article….

“In Spain today, a cycle similar to Greece is starting to develop,” said HSBC chief economist Stephen King.

“The recession is so deep that when you take one step forward on austerity, it takes you two steps back.”

In Spain right now there is a lot of fear and panic about the economy.  In many areas, it seems like absolutely nobody is hiring right now.  The following is from a recent USA Today article….

“The situation is very bad. There’s no work,” said Enrique Sebastian, a 48-year-old unemployed surgery room assistant as he left one of Madrid’s unemployment offices. “The only future I see is one with wages of €400 ($530) a month for eight-hour days. And that’s if you can find it.”

But Spain is just at the beginning of a downward spiral.  Just wait until they have been through a few years of economic depression.  Once that happens, millions of people begin to lose all hope.  A recent Reuters article discussed the epidemic of suicides that is happening in Greece right now….

On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation – and its media – before a May 6 election.

And you know what?

The nightmares that we are seeing unfold in Spain and Greece right now are just a preview of what is coming to most of the rest of the world.

The next wave of the economic crisis will soon envelop the United States, Japan and the rest of Europe.

When it strikes, the pain will be immense.

But it won’t be the end – it will only be just the beginning.

The global financial system is starting to crumble.

You better get ready.

27 Statistics About The European Economic Crisis That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

The economic crisis in Europe continues to get worse and eventually it is going to unravel into a complete economic nightmare.  All over Europe, national governments have piled up debts that are completely unsustainable.  But whenever they start significantly cutting government spending it results in an economic slowdown.  So politicians in Europe are really caught between a rock and a hard place.  They can’t keep racking up these unsustainable debts, but if they continue to cut government spending it is going to push their economies into deep recession and their populations will riot.  Greece is a perfect example of this.  Greece has been going down the austerity road for several years now and they are experiencing a full-blown economic depression, riots have become a way of life in that country and their national budget is still not anywhere close to balanced.  Americans should pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because this is what it looks like when a debt party ends.  Most of the nations in the eurozone have just started implementing austerity, and yet unemployment in the eurozone is already the highest it has been since the euro was introduced.  It has risen for 10 months in a row and is now up to 10.8 percent.  Sadly, it is going to go even higher.  As economies across Europe slide into recession, that is going to put even more pressure on the European financial system.  Most Americans do not realize this, but the European banking system is absolutely enormous.  It is nearly four times the size that the U.S. banking system is.  When the European banking system crashes (and it will) it is going to reverberate around the globe.  The epicenter of the next great financial crisis is going to be in Europe, and it is getting closer with each passing day.

The following are 27 statistics about the European economic crisis that are almost too crazy to believe….

Greece

#1 The Greek economy shrank by 6 percent during 2011, and it has been shrinking for five years in a row.

#2 The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and now the unemployment rate in Greece is up to 21.8 percent.

#3 The youth unemployment rate in Greece is now over 50 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in the port town is Perama is about 60 percent.

#5 In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have closed down during the economic crisis.

#6 Greece now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 160 percent.

#7 Some of the austerity measures that have been implemented in Greece have been absolutely brutal.  For example, Greek civil servants have had their incomes slashed by about 40 percent since 2010.

#8 Despite all of the austerity measures, it is being projected that Greece will still have a budget deficit equivalent to 7 percent of GDP in 2012.

#9 Greece is still facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are equivalent to approximately 800 percent of GDP.

#10 In the midst of all the poverty in Greece, several serious diseases are making a major comeback.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

The incidence of HIV/Aids among intravenous drug users in central Athens soared by 1,250% in the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the head of Médecins sans Frontières Greece, while malaria is becoming endemic in the south for the first time since the rule of the colonels, which ended in the 1970s.

Spain

#11 The unemployment rate in Spain is now up to 23.6 percent.

#12 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 50 percent.

#13 The total value of all toxic loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#14 The GDP of Spain is about 1.4 trillion dollars.  The three largest Spanish banks have approximately 2.7 trillion dollars in assets and they are all on the verge of failing.

#15 Home prices in Spain fell by 11.2 percent during 2011.

#16 The number of property repossessions in Spain rose by 32 percent during 2011.

#17 The ratio of government debt to GDP in Spain will rise by more than 11 percent during 2012.

#18 On top of everything else, Spain is dealing with the worst drought it has seen in 70 years.

Portugal

#19 The unemployment rate in Portugal is up to 15 percent.

#20 The youth unemployment rate in Portugal is now over 35 percent.

#21 Banks in Portugal borrowed a record 56.3 billion euros from the European Central Bank in March.

#22 It is being projected that the Portuguese economy will shrink by 5.7 percent during 2012.

#23 When you add up all forms of debt in Portugal (government, business and consumer) the total is equivalent to approximately 360 percent of GDP.

Italy

#24 Youth unemployment in Italy is up to 31.9 percent – the highest level ever.

#25 Italy’s national debt is approximately 2.7 times larger than the national debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal put together.

#26 If you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to the projected budget deficit, it comes to approximately 23.1 percent of Italy’s GDP.

#27 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 120 percent.

So why hasn’t Europe crashed already?

Well, the powers that be are pulling out all their tricks.

For example, the European Central Bank decided to start loaning gigantic mountains of money to European banks.  That accomplished two things….

1) It kept those European banks from collapsing.

2) European banks used that money to buy up sovereign bonds and that kept interest rates down.

Unfortunately, all of this game playing has also put the European Central Bank in a very vulnerable position.

The balance sheet of the European Central Bank has expanded by more than 1 trillion dollars over the past nine months.  The balance sheet of the European Central Bank is now larger than the entire GDP of Germany and the ECB is now leveraged 36 to 1.

So just how far can you stretch the rubberband before it snaps?

Perhaps we are about to find out.

The European financial system is leveraged like crazy right now.  Even banking systems in countries that you think of as “stable” are leveraged to extremes.

For example, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

When Lehman Brothers finally collapsed, it was only leveraged 30 to 1.

You can’t solve a debt crisis with more debt.  But the European Central Bank has been able to use more debt to kick the can down the road a few more months.

At some point the sovereign debt bubble is going to burst.

All financial bubbles eventually burst.

What goes up must come down.

Right now, the major industrialized nations of the world are approximately 55 trillion dollars in debt.

It has been a fun ride, but this fraudulent pyramid of risk, debt and leverage is going to come crashing down at some point.

It is only a matter of time.

Already, there are a whole bunch of signs that some very serious economic trouble is on the horizon.

Hopefully we still have a few more months until it hits.

But in this day and age nothing is guaranteed.

What does seem abundantly clear is that the current global financial system is inevitably going to fail.

When it does, what “solutions” will our leaders try to impose upon us?

That is something to think about.

Austerity In America: 22 Signs That It Is Already Here And That It Is Going To Be Very Painful

Over the past couple of years, most Americans have shown little concern as austerity measures were imposed on financially troubled nations across Europe.  Even as austerity riots erupted in nations such as Greece and Spain, most Americans were still convinced that nothing like that could ever happen here.  Well, guess what?  Austerity has arrived in America.  At this point, it is not a formal, mandated austerity like we have seen in Europe, but the results are just the same.  Taxes are going up, services are being slashed dramatically, thousands of state and city employees are being laid off, and politicians seem to be endlessly talking about ways to make even deeper budget cuts.  Unfortunately, even with the incredibly severe budget cuts that we have seen already, many state and local governments across the United States are still facing a sea of red ink as far as the eye can see.

Most Americans tend to think of “government debt” as only a problem of the federal government.  But that is simply not accurate.  The truth is that there are thousands of “government debt problems” from coast to coast.  Today, state and local government debt has reached at an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP.  It is a crisis of catastrophic proportions that is not going away any time soon.

A recent article in the New York Times did a good job of summarizing the financial pain that many state governments are feeling right now.  Unfortunately, as bad as the budget shortfalls are for this year, they are projected to be even worse in 2012….

While state revenues — shrunken as a result of the recession — are finally starting to improve somewhat, federal stimulus money that had propped up state budgets is vanishing and costs are rising, all of which has left state leaders bracing for what is next. For now, states have budget gaps of $26 billion, by some estimates, and foresee shortfalls of at least $82 billion as they look to next year’s budgets.

So what is the solution? Well, for state and local politicians from coast to coast, the answer to these financial problems is to impose austerity measures.  Of course they never, ever use the term “austerity measures”, but that is exactly what they are.

The following are 22 signs that austerity has already arrived in America and that it is going to be very, very painful….

#1 The financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb, has submitted a proposal to close half of all the schools in the city.  His plan envisions class sizes of up to 62 students in the remaining schools.

#2 Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut off 20 percent of the entire city from police and trash services in order to save money.

#3 Things are so tight in California that Governor Jerry Brown is requiring approximately 48,000 state workers to turn in their government-paid cell phones by June 1st.

#4 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to completely eliminate 20 percent of state agencies.

#5 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has closed 20 fire departments at night and is proposing layoffs in every single city agency.

#6 In the state of Illinois, lawmakers recently pushed through a 66 percent increase in the personal income tax rate.

#7 The town of Prichard, Alabama came up with a unique way to battle their budget woes recently.  They simply stopped sending out pension checks to retired workers.  Of course this is a violation of state law, but town officials insist that they just do not have the money.

#8 New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently purposely skipped a scheduled 3.1 billion dollar payment to that state’s pension system.

#9 The state of New Jersey is in such bad shape that they still are facing a $10 billion budget deficit for this year even after cutting a billion dollars from the education budget and laying off thousands of teachers.

#10 Due to a very serious budget shortfall, the city of Newark, New Jersey recently made very significant cuts to the police force.  Subsequently, there has been a very substantial spike in the crime rate.

#11 The city of Camden, New Jersey is “the second most dangerous city in America”, but because of a huge budget shortfall they recently felt forced to lay off half of the city police force.

#12 Philadelphia, Baltimore and Sacramento have all instituted “rolling brownouts” during which various city fire stations are shut down on a rotating basis.

#13 In Georgia, the county of Clayton recently eliminated its entire public bus system in order to save 8 million dollars.

#14 Oakland, California Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that due to severe budget cuts there are a number of crimes that his department will simply not be able to respond to any longer.  The crimes that the Oakland police will no longer be responding to include grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism.

#15 In Connecticut, the governor is asking state legislators to approve the biggest tax increase that the state has seen in two decades.

#16 All across the United States, conditions at many state parks, recreation areas and historic sites are deplorable at best.  Some states have backlogs of repair projects that are now over a billion dollars long.  The following is a quote from a recent MSNBC article about these project backlogs….

More than a dozen states estimate that their backlogs are at least $100 million. Massachusetts and New York’s are at least $1 billion. Hawaii officials called park conditions “deplorable” in a December report asking for $50 million per year for five years to tackle a $240 million backlog that covers parks, trails and harbors.

#17 The state of Arizona recently announced that it has decided to stop paying for many types of organ transplants for people enrolled in its Medicaid program.

#18 Not only that, but Arizona is so desperate for money that they have even sold off the state capitol building, the state supreme court building and the legislative chambers.

#19 All over the nation, asphalt roads are actually being ground up and are being replaced with gravel because it is cheaper to maintain.  The state of South Dakota has transformed over 100 miles of asphalt road into gravel over the past year, and 38 out of the 83 counties in the state of Michigan have transformed at least some of their asphalt roads into gravel roads.

#20 The state of Illinois is such a financial disaster zone that it is hard to even describe.  According to 60 Minutes,  the state of Illinois is six months behind on their bill payments.  60 Minutes correspondent Steve Croft asked Illinois state Comptroller Dan Hynes how many people and organizations are waiting to be paid by the state, and this is how Hynes responded….

“It’s fair to say that there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people waiting to be paid by the state.”

#21 The city of Chicago is in such dire straits financially that officials there are actually toying with the idea of setting up a city-owned casino as a way to raise cash.

#22 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is desperately looking for ways to cut the budget and he says that “hundreds of jurisdictions” in his state could go bankrupt over the next few years.

But everything that you have just read is only the beginning.  Budget shortfalls for our state and local governments are projected to be much worse in the years ahead.

So what is the answer?  Well, our state and local governments are going to have to spend less money.  That means that we are likely to see even more savage budget cutting.

In addition, our state and local politicians are going to feel intense pressure to find ways to “raise revenue”.  In fact, we are already starting to see this happen.

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, over the past couple of years a total of 36 out of the 50 U.S. states have raised taxes or fees of some sort.

So hold on to your wallets, because the politicians are going to be coming after them.

We are entering a time of extreme financial stress in America.  The federal government is broke.  Most of our state and local governments are broke.  Record numbers of Americans are going bankrupt.  Record numbers of Americans are being kicked out of their homes.  Record numbers of Americans are now living in poverty.

The debt-fueled prosperity of the last several decades came at a cost.  We literally mortgaged the future.  Now nothing will ever be the same again.

The Economic Collapse