If you have "no place to go," come here!

Ryan's Follies: Bureaucracy, Austerity, and Depression

letsgetitdone's picture

Here's the next group of Ryan's follies from his answer to the President's 2011 SOTU.

On bureaucracy and innovation:

”Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked – and it won’t work now.”

That may be. But depending on the big banks and big US corporations to either get lending going again, or to bring innovation and jobs to the United States also won't work. What will work is for the Government to increase aggregate demand by deficit spending in areas of the economy we want to grow.

“Bureaucracy” is just a scare term. The big corporations that Ryan, the Republicans, and many Democratic Congresspeople serve are all just as bureaucratic, and in the case of the health insurance companies, even more bureaucratic than the Government. The dirty little secret of the social sciences is that bureaucracy comes with large size whether we're talking about private or public organizations. So, unless Ryan has plans to break up the large banks, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, telecommunications companies, and exporters he loves so much, he really ought to shut up about “bureaucracy,” because his precious private sector has absolutely nothing to crow about when it comes to that feature of large organizations.

If we don't like bureaucracy, then what we need is regulation that will break up large organizations, making them illegal beyond a certain size. Then perhaps we might create functioning markets and be able to shrink the Federal government too. But this kind of solution is off the table for Ryan and Romney since regulation is a no-no from the standpoint of their ideology.

On other nations acting soon enough when they rising debts:

”Just take a look at what’s happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other nations in Europe. They didn’t act soon enough; and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures: large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody.”

First, I've heard just about enough of the mindless comparisons of Greece and Ireland to the United States and other nations that are sovereign in their own currency. Greece and Ireland use the Eurozone's currency, so they have solvency risk not shared by nations like the United States. They can be driven into insolvency by the bond markets. Currency-wise Euro nations are like the states of the United States, and not like the Federal Government which is the creator of US currency. These cannot avoid insolvency by simply creating Euros, because they have given up their power to issue currency. We, on the other hand, can spend dollars, and in the act of spending create high-powered money in private sector accounts.

Second, Ryan may say that the British Government was forced into its austerity measures. But this is nonsense, no one forced it into its austerity moves. It just decided to follow the policies that Ryan wants for us here. And what's happened to Britain since they introduced austerity policies should be a lesson learned for every other nation in full control of its currency that decides to ape Euro austerity.

Contrary to Ryan's neoliberal economic theory, austerity has created economic contraction in the UK, since the fourth quarter of 2010. The UK National Accounts show a decline of 0.5% in real GDP growth in that quarter, a little over 6 months after the new coalition took office and passed its austerity program. That decline was prior to the implementation of some of the heaviest austerity measures, and reflected the attempts of UK households to anticipate the bite of austerity. The UK VAT was then increased by 2.5%. And its impact has been another decline in GDP caused by the Government's removal of private sector financial assets through the increase in the VAT, and its spending cut policies since the Spring of 2011.

Everyone in America should be watching Europe very carefully. Ireland and Greece had the choice of austerity or withdrawing from the Eurozone. They chose austerity. Both economies continue to struggle with Greece on the brink of collapse, and Ireland still mired deep in depression. In addition, Spain, Italy, and Portugal are also choosing austerity, and all of them are in trouble as the Euro crisis treated with austerity policy, gradually kills the economy.

In the UK, the British public is suffering from the stubborn Tory-liberal experiment in austerity, with the ruling parties continuing to deny facts obvious to everyone about how their experiment is working out. Let's hope that the deficit hawks and doves in this country watch that carefully, so that they can see that austerity won't work, before they subject Americans to one of their variety of unnecessary long-term deficit reduction plans.

On endless borrowing and spending cuts:

”We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.”

I believe that business as usual has to end too. For the past 30 years or more we've heard nothing but economic theory that confuses the Government with a household or other economic units that cannot create their own currency. And we've heard all through that time that we cannot keep borrowing, and that spending cuts must come first, while we've kept borrowing largely to provide lower tax rates for wealthy people, in the hopes that greater disposable income for them would trickle down. Ryan and Romney are giving us that same ideology again.

If endless borrowing is really not a strategy, than why won't Ryan work to restore the marginal tax rates of the 1960s and close all loopholes? We all know why; because he doesn't believe in shared sacrifice; only in sacrifices by the poor and the middle class so he can further enrich his supporters. Congressman Ryan, the Republican's young guru is exactly the same as their old gurus. His one prescription for everything is to leave the poor little rich people alone, so they can, out of the goodness of their hearts, leave the rest of us a few scraps.

Apart from this however, while ending borrowing and cutting spending may increase the well-being of a private sector household, if everyone does that in the private sector, then there will be rapidly declining demand, and as surely as night follows day there will be a double-dip recession harming everyone, unless Government spending takes up the demand slack coming from the private sector.

The Government can borrow endlessly if it wants to, as long as its accompanying Government spending doesn't cause demand-pull inflation. Or, alternatively, if Ryan and Romney are as bothered by the debt as they claim, then they can work to repeal the Congressional mandate forcing the Treasury to issue new debt when it deficit spends. That way, the debt will gradually be reduced to zero as time passes and they won't have to worry about it anymore.

Even better, if Ryan and Romney hate the debt so much, they can propose that the Executive cause the US Mint to issue a $60 Trillion proof platinum coin, deposit it at the Fed in return for electronic credits which will end up in the Treasury General Account. With the $60 T in credits, the debt subject to the limit can be paid off entirely as it falls due, leaving $44 T in credits to use for deficit spending over the next 15 years or so. Romney and Ryan will never do this however, since if they did and also implemented this plan, then they'd have no excuse for cutting Federal spending that benefits the poor and the middle class.

The more important point is that cutting the level of Government deficit spending is not what ought to be done when we have an economy that is operating so far below its full capacity. If we do that and move to balance the budget as Ryan/Romney want us to do, then we will take financial assets out of the private sector, reduce aggregate demand and further decrease our use of the economy's productive capacity. That is, we'll have greater unemployment, greater suffering, and much less growth.

That's because Government deficit spending, other things equal, increases net financial assets in the private sector; while Government surpluses decrease net financial assets. There's just no getting around that macroeconomic identity. So, spending cuts and budget balancing are a strategy that won't effect the Government's capacity to spend at all, but it will impoverish the private sector.

If that's really what Ryan, Romney, the Republicans, and a variety of Democrats, as well, want to do, then let them try to do it. But I guarantee that sooner or later the American public will have its revenge for their bringing back Herbert Hoover's nightmare.

(Cross-posted from

No votes yet