Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paul Krugman piskar Angela Merker och Tyskland för passiv krisbekämpning

Observerat och värderat:
Nobelpristagaren i ekonomi,Paul Krugman, skriver regelbundna och läsvärda kolumner i The New York Times. Så också nu den 15 december 2008, där han framför en kraftfull och befogad kritik mot Angela Merkers Tyskland för dess passivitet att stimulera ekonomin. I en annan algebra-matematisk, kompletterande text har Krugman teoretiskt visat varför Tyskland inte ska bromsa krisbekämpningen som man nu gör.)
/Robert Björkenwall; robert.bjorken@telia.com

PS. Krugman höll en kanonintressant föreläsning i ett knökfullt ABF-huset i Stockholm den 12 december. För oss som nu var där. Obama kan - och borde, menar Krugman - göra som Franklin D. Roosevelt år 1933, dvs genomföra en ny New Deal för 2000-talet. Men, som synes, tycker han att även Europa (och Sverige, rimligen) borde kunna göra långt mer.

F.ö är det, noterar jag, nu i år 80 år sedan Per Albin höll sitt berömda folkhemstal. Detta apropå historia och att extrema, globala kriser som den vi nu har återkommer med ungefär 40 års mellanrum...Och då kräver ledare som verkligen förstår och förmår att agera utifrån vad situationen verkligen kräver!

The New York Times

OPINION | December 15, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist: European Crass Warfare

Europe’s economy is in trouble. But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her economic officials stand in the way of a much-needed European rescue plan.

So here’s the situation: the economy is facing its worst slump in decades. The usual response to an economic downturn, cutting interest rates, isn’t working. Large-scale government aid looks like the only way to end the economic nosedive.

But there’s a problem: conservative politicians, clinging to an out-of-date ideology — and, perhaps, betting (wrongly) that their constituents are relatively well positioned to ride out the storm — are standing in the way of action.

No, I’m not talking about Bob Corker, the Senator from Nissan — I mean Tennessee — and his fellow Republicans, who torpedoed last week’s attempt to buy some time for the U.S. auto industry. (Why was the plan blocked? An e-mail message circulated among Senate Republicans declared that denying the auto industry a loan was an opportunity for Republicans to “take their first shot against organized labor.”)

I am, instead, talking about Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and her economic officials, who have become the biggest obstacles to a much-needed European rescue plan.

The European economic mess isn’t getting very much attention here, because we’re understandably focused on our own problems. But the world’s other economic superpower — America and the European Union have roughly the same G.D.P. — is arguably in as much trouble as we are.

The most acute problems are on Europe’s periphery, where many smaller economies are experiencing crises strongly reminiscent of past crises in Latin America and Asia: Latvia is the new Argentina; Ukraine is the new Indonesia. But the pain has also reached the big economies of Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy and, the biggest of all, Germany.

As in the United States, monetary policy — cutting interest rates in an effort to perk up the economy — is rapidly reaching its limit. That leaves, as the only way to avert the worst slump since the Great Depression, the aggressive use of fiscal policy: increasing spending or cutting taxes to boost demand. Right now everyone sees the need for a large, pan-European fiscal stimulus.

Everyone, that is, except the Germans. Mrs. Merkel has become Frau Nein: if there is to be a rescue of the European economy, she wants no part of it, telling a party meeting that “we’re not going to participate in this senseless race for billions.”

Last week Peer Steinbrück, Mrs. Merkel’s finance minister, went even further. Not content with refusing to develop a serious stimulus plan for his own country, he denounced the plans of other European nations. He accused Britain, in particular, of engaging in “crass Keynesianism.”

Germany’s leaders seem to believe that their own economy is in good shape, and in no need of major help. They’re almost certainly wrong about that. The really bad thing, however, isn’t their misjudgment of their own situation; it’s the way Germany’s opposition is preventing a common European approach to the economic crisis.

To understand the problem, think of what would happen if, say, New Jersey were to attempt to boost its economy through tax cuts or public works, without this state-level stimulus being part of a nationwide program. Clearly, much of the stimulus would “leak” away to neighboring states, so that New Jersey would end up with all of the debt while other states got many if not most of the jobs.

Individual European countries are in much the same situation. Any one government acting unilaterally faces the strong possibility that it will run up a lot of debt without creating much domestic employment.

For the European economy as a whole, however, this kind of leakage is much less of a problem: two-thirds of the average European Union member’s imports come from other European nations, so that the continent as a whole is no more import-dependent than the United States. This means that a coordinated stimulus effort, in which each country counts on its neighbors to match its own efforts, would offer much more bang for the euro than individual, uncoordinated efforts.

But you can’t have a coordinated European effort if Europe’s biggest economy not only refuses to go along, but heaps scorn on its neighbors’ attempts to contain the crisis.

Germany’s big Nein won’t last forever. Last week Ifo, a highly respected research institute, warned that Germany will soon be facing its worst economic crisis since the 1940s. If and when this happens, Mrs. Merkel and her ministers will surely reconsider their position.

But in Europe, as in the United States, the issue is time. Across the world, economies are sinking fast, while we wait for someone, anyone, to offer an effective policy response. How much damage will be done before that response finally comes?


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