Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Simplifiying Economic Priniciples

There is a current debate going on between Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate of Princeton and the New York Times and Paulina Tcherneva, an economist at New Economic Perspectives (NEP). NEP is run by people from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and its contributors include people like Bill Black, who put a lot of shysters in jail after the Savings and Loan crisis; Michael Hudson, an economist who has been helping many foreign countries facing austerity crises; and many other from UMKC that are listed at the blog.

Both parties agree that creating money to stimulate the economy can lead to a devaluation of the currency. But, they disagree on whether or not this can lead to a government default and what the the money should be spent on. To date, essentially all the money has been spent on buying junk bonds from banks to increase their reserves so they can ride out the storm, while taxpayers pick up the tab in the form of higher taxes and reduced services later. Little or nothing has been spent on employing idle labor and other productive resources. Both parties have favored stimulus, but Krugman seems more accepting of what has been done than Tcherneva.  She believes the money should have been spent on putting people back to work with government programs. Tcherneva contends that the government will always be able to pay all its bills, including Social Security benefits, because it can print money. It’s just a question of what that money will be worth in purchasing real goods at a later time.

So, the bottom line is, what is the right course in the long run. If we continue to just bail out the banks we’ll have to continue buying  consumer products from overseas. To do so we’ll have to exchange those inflated dollars for the yen or yuan, so they won’t buy as much. But, if we invest now in putting the unemployed to work  restoring our domestic infrastructure and production capacity, later we can produce those goods ourselves and don’t need to take the hit on the currency exchange to buy them from foreign countries. Tcherneva makes the point in a quite wonkish way, but I think she wins the argument.

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