End This Depression Now! – Paul Krugman

The briefest of nods to Paul Krugman–as I need to get some sleep before another day of below-minimum-wage, hamster-wheel work–for his lucid, sane and consistent argument in favor of ending the current economic depression. I have always loved that he calls it like it is. “Recession” is a marketing term designed to brand this mess as less serious than it is. Krugman is careful but not cautious in his condemnation of the half-lies and half-measures that mire us in an economic downturn that is exacting an unequal and unconscionable price from many while enriching the already-rich few.

Spend to stimulate is the over-simplified shorthand for Krugman’s anti-austerity plan. Unemployment, underemployment, shrinking benefits and household worth, a mortgage debacle and all those sinking underwater homes in foreclosure–none of it is necessary and all of it is fixable. But there is no clear thought and no political will to counter the mumbled mumbo-jumbo from the Right and the freely-purchased influence of the rich.

End This Depression Now! digs into the causes and cures of the euro problems and the failing economies across the pond. It examines the myths of Chinese control of America’s economic future through debt and totals up the real percentage of our GDP that the deficit represents. Far less than you might have guessed and a fraction of the alarmist figures you’ve been sold. There are no rosy pictures in this formula for real recovery. We are in trouble and it will take some doing to get out of it. But less Sunday morning chat and more roll-up-your-sleeves-and-do-the-right-thing will go a long way toward reversing the economic free-fall.

Worth reading, if only to sort out all the heated blustering about John Maynard Keynes.  Krugman is polite but he holds up a mirror to political leaders, economists and academics and the images are often less than attractive. We don’t have a money problem, Krugman asserts. We have a moral imperative to ease the burden of unemployment, create a possible future for young people entering the work force and remember the harsh lessons of our own history.  The U. S. has an urgent need to invest in restoring jobs to millions of state and local government workers, rebuild our national infrastructure and revisit the types of financial regulations that once protected us from fiscal fail.

I tend to believe him, but I’m no reliable judge. My attempts to master economics in a course offered by the U. S. Department of Agriculture when I worked in the Senate got derailed somewhere in the endless droning on about guns and butter. No patience for wonky academics when I had witnessed firsthand the worst slums of Port au Prince and the rag-and-cardboard neighborhoods that ringed Bombay.  I should have waded through Keynes back then, not Che Guevarra, and re-read the history of feudal England or stories about the Irish potato famine, not “Buddhist Economics” by E. F.  Schumacher.  Too late. Now I’ll have to content myself with Krugman, whom I tend to think is so spot on that his analyses regularly depress me. Still, End This Depression… is a hopeful book and maybe, after all his public carping, a Nobel Prize for economics and the sad proof that he’s been right all along, a few key decision makers will download the book to their kindles, so no one can tell what they’re reading, and see the light.

End This Depression Now!   Paul Krugman | W. W. Norton & Company   2012

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