Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts: Death By Globalism

Death By Globalism
Economists haven’t a clue
By Paul Craig Roberts article link article link article link
September 01, 2010 | Information Clearing House | Global Research | Silver Bear Cafe

Have economists made themselves irrelevant? If you have any doubts, have a look at the current issue of the magazine, International Economy, a slick endorsed by former Federal Reserve chairmen Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, by Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, by former Secretary of State George Shultz, and by the New York Times and Washington Post, both of which declare the magazine to be “ahead of the curve.”

The main feature of the current issue is “The Great Stimulus Debate (pdf).” Is the Obama fiscal stimulus helping the economy or hindering it?

Princeton economics professor and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi represent the Keynesian view that government deficit spending is needed to lift the economy out of recession. Zandi declares that thanks to the fiscal stimulus, “The economy has made enormous progress since early 2009,” an opinion shared by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and the Congressional Budget Office.

The opposite view, associated with Harvard economics professor Robert Barro and with European economists, such as Francesco Giavazzi and Marco Pagano and the European Central Bank, is that government budget surpluses achieved by cutting government spending spur the economy by reducing the ratio of debt to Gross Domestic Product. This is the “let them eat cake school of economics.”

Barro says that fiscal stimulus has no effect, because people anticipate the future tax increases implied by government deficits and increase their personal savings to offset the added government debt. Giavazzi and Pagano reason that since fiscal stimulus does not expand the economy, fiscal austerity consisting of higher taxes and reduced government spending could be the cure for unemployment.

If one overlooks the real world and the need of life for sustenance, one can become engrossed in this debate. However, the minute one looks out the window upon the world, one realizes that cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing subsidies when 15 million Americans have lost jobs, medical coverage, and homes is a certain path to death by starvation, curable diseases, and exposure, and the loss of the productive labor inputs from 15 million people. Although some proponents of this anti-Keynesian policy deny that it results in social upheaval, Gerald Celente’s observation is closer to the mark: “When people have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

The Krugman Keynesian school is just as deluded. Neither side in “The Great Stimulus Debate” has a clue that the problem for the U.S. is that a large chunk of U.S. GDP and the jobs, incomes, and careers associated with it, have been moved offshore and given to Chinese, Indians, and others with low wage rates. Profits have soared on Wall Street, while job prospects for the middle class have been eliminated.

The offshoring of American jobs resulted from (1) Wall Street pressures for “higher shareholder returns,” that is, for more profits, and from (2) no-think economists, such as the ones engaged in the debate over fiscal stimulus, who mistakenly associated globalism with free trade instead of with its antithesis--the pursuit of lowest factor cost abroad or absolute advantage, the opposite of comparative advantage, which is the basis for free trade theory. Even Krugman, who has some credentials as a trade theorist has fallen for the equation of globalism with free trade.

As economists assume, incorrectly according to the latest trade theory by Ralph Gomory and William Baumol, that free trade is always mutually beneficial, economists have failed to examine the devastatingly harmful effects of offshoring. The more intelligent among them who point it out are dismissed as “protectionists.”

The reason fiscal stimulus cannot rescue the U.S. economy has nothing to do with the difference between Barro and Krugman. It has to do with the fact that a large percentage of high-productivity, high-value-added jobs and the middle class incomes and careers associated with them have been given to foreigners. What used to be U.S. GDP is now Chinese, Indian, and other country GDP.

When the jobs have been shipped overseas, fiscal stimulus does not call workers back to work in order to meet the rising consumer demand. If fiscal stimulus has any effect, it
stimulates employment in China and India.

The “let them eat cake school” is equally off the mark. As investment, research, development, etc., have been moved offshore, cutting entitlements simply drives the domestic population deeper in the ground. Americans cannot pay their mortgages, car payments, tuition, utility bills, or for that matter, any bill, based on Chinese and Indian pay scales. Therefore, Americans are priced out of the labor market and become dependencies of the federal budget. “Fiscal consolidation” means writing off large numbers of humans.

During the Great Depression, many wage and salary earners were new members of the labor force arriving from family farms, where many parents and grandparents still supported themselves. When their city jobs disappeared, many could return to the farm.

Today farming is in the hands of agri-business. There are no farms to which the unemployed can return.

The “let them eat cake school” never mentions the one point in its favor. The U.S., with all its huffed up power and importance, depends on the U.S. dollar as reserve currency. It is this role of the dollar that allows America to pay for its imports in its own currency.

For a country whose trade is as unbalanced as America’s, this privilege is what keeps the country afloat.

The threats to the dollar’s role are the budget and trade deficits. Both are so large and have accumulated for so long that the prospect of making good on them has evaporated. As I have written for a number of years, the U.S. is so dependent on the dollar as reserve currency that it must have as its main policy goal to preserve that role.

Otherwise, the U.S., an import-dependent country, will be unable to pay for its excess of imports over its exports.

“Fiscal consolidation,” the new term for austerity, could save the dollar. However, unless starvation, homelessness and social upheaval are the goals, the austerity must fall on the military budget. America cannot afford its multi-trillion dollar wars that serve only to enrich those invested in the armaments industries. The U.S. cannot afford the neoconservative dream of world hegemony and a conquered Middle East open to Israeli colonization.

Is anyone surprised that not a single proponent of the “let them eat cake school” mentions cutting military spending? Entitlements, despite the fact that they are paid for by earmarked taxes and have been in surplus since the Reagan administration, are always what economists put on the chopping bloc.

Where do the two schools stand on inflation vs. deflation? We don’t have to worry. Martin Feldstein, one of America’s pre-eminent economist says: “The good news is that investors should worry about neither.” His explanation epitomizes the insouciance of American economists.

Feldstein says that there cannot be inflation because of the high rate of unemployment and the low rate of capacity utilization. Thus, “there is little upward pressure on wages and prices in the United States.” Moreover, “the recent rise in the value of the dollar relative to the euro and British pound helps by reducing import costs.”

As for deflation, no risk there either. The huge deficits prevent deflation, “so the good news is that the possibility of significant inflation or deflation during the next few years is low on the list of economic risks faced by the U.S. economy and by financial investors.”

What we have in front of us is an unaware economics profession. There may be some initial period of deflation as stock and housing prices decline with the economy, which is headed down and not up. The deflation will be short lived, because as the government’s deficit rises with the declining economy, the prospect of financing a $2 trillion annual deficit evaporates once individual investors have completed their flight from the stock market into “safe” government bonds, once the hyped Greek, Spanish, and Irish crises have driven investors out of euros into dollars, and once the banks’ excess reserves created by the bailout have been used up in the purchase of Treasuries.

Then what finances the deficit? Don’t look for an answer from either side of The Great Stimulus Debate. They haven’t a clue despite the fact that the answer is obvious.

The Federal Reserve will monetize the federal government deficit. The result will be high inflation, possibly hyper-inflation and high unemployment simultaneously.

The no-think economics establishment has no policy response for economic armageddon, assuming they are even capable of recognizing it.

Economists who have spent their professional lives rationalizing “globalism” as good for America have no idea of the disaster that they have wrought.

Hon. Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. A former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal and columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service, he is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles and a columnist for Investor's Business Daily. In 1992 he received the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism. In 1993 the Forbes Media Guide ranked him as one of the top seven journalists.

He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. From 1982 through 1993, he held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, and he was awarded the Treasury Department's Meritorious Service Award for "his outstanding contributions to the formulation of United States economic policy." From 1975 to 1978, Dr. Roberts served on the congressional staff where he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.

In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor.

Dr. Roberts' latest books are The Tyranny of Good Intentions, co-authored with IPE Fellow Lawrence Stratton, and published by Prima Publishing in May 2000, and Chile: Two Visions - The Allende-Pinochet Era, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen Araujo, and published in Spanish by Universidad Nacional Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, in November 2000. The Capitalist Revolution in Latin America, co-authored with IPE Fellow Karen LaFollette Araujo, was published by Oxford University Press in 1997. A Spanish language edition was published by Oxford in 1999. The New Colorline: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy, co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, was published by Regnery in 1995. A paperback edition was published in 1997. Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, co-authored with Karen LaFollette, was published by the Cato Institute in 1990. Harvard University Press published his book, The Supply-Side Revolution, in 1984. Widely reviewed and favorably received, the book was praised by Forbes as "a timely masterpiece that will have real impact on economic thinking in the years ahead." Dr. Roberts is the author of Alienation and the Soviet Economy, published in 1971 and republished in 1990. He is the author of Marx's Theory of Exchange, Alienation and Crisis, published in 1973 and republished in 1983. A Spanish language edition was published in 1974.

Dr. Roberts has held numerous academic appointments. He has contributed chapters to numerous books and has published many articles in journals of scholarship, including the Journal of Political Economy, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Law and Economics, Studies in Banking and Finance, Journal of Monetary Economics, Public Finance Quarterly, Public Choice, Classica et Mediaevalia, Ethics, Slavic Review, Soviet Studies, Rivista de Political Economica, and Zeitschrift fur Wirtschafspolitik. He has entries in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Economics and the New Palgrave Dictionary of Money and Finance. He has contributed to Commentary, The Public Interest, The National Interest, Harper's, the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Fortune, London Times, The Financial Times, TLS, The Spectator, Il Sole 24 Ore, Le Figaro, Liberation, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. He has testified before committees of Congress on 30 occasions.

Dr. Roberts was educated at the Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S.), the University of Virginia (Ph.D.), the University of California at Berkeley and Oxford University where he was a member of Merton College.

He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, The Dictionary of International Biography, Outstanding People of the Twentieth Century, and 1000 Leaders of World Influence. His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at:

CounterPunch home page
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Global Research Articles by Paul Craig Roberts
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