Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Progressive economists: Don't kill jobs and growth in the name of deficit reduction

This morning, several leading progressive thinkers released a statement signed by more than three hundred economists and civic leaders urging President Obama and Congress not to sacrifice jobs and growth in the name of deficit reduction.

The text — coauthored by Dean Baker of CEPR, Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey of the Institute for America's Future, and Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect — lays out a succinct case against austerity measures, which could forestall or prevent a full economic recovery. An excerpt:
The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform [also known as the Catfood Commission] has set a goal of reducing the Federal deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2015. It is not clear that this arbitrary target can be met without damaging our recovery. In any case, the goals of economic policy must be far broader.

The most important question is this: What will drive economic growth, job creation and prosperity in the years to come? Conservatives argue that we should simply reduce deficits and wait for the next economic boom. But the last boom was built on a bubble, inflated by unsustainable household debt and financial speculation. If we focus merely on cutting spending and raising taxes, the economy could shrink again – or stay stuck in a permanently low level of growth and high levels of unemployment.

President Barack Obama has called on us to build a new foundation for the economy. This requires making investments vital to our future – in education and training, in research and development, in a modern infrastructure for the 21st century. It requires ending our addiction to oil, and capturing a lead role in the green industrial revolution, creating the next generation of green jobs.
The full statement is available at, along with an impressive list of signatories. Many work at America's leading universities, including the University of Massachusetts, Rutgers University, Cornell University, Harvard University, University of California, and Yale University.

Our own region is represented: signatories hail from Lewis & Clark, Evergreen State College, the University of Portland, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and Shoreline Community College.

(Note that the signatories did not sign the statement on behalf of the institutions that they work for; institutions are listed for identification purposes only).

We at NPI strongly concur with this statement. The most important thing we can do to restore our economy is invest in America's needs. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act was a start, but it is not enough.

The last time that right wing Republicans controlled the executive and legislative branches, they ran up huge deficits without a second thought.

It is disingenuous for them to now claim that expenditures are out of control, and insist that deficit reduction be our nation's top priority.

George W. Bush inherited a surplus when he succeeded Bill Clinton. Why wasn't that surplus used to pay down the deficit?

Because Republicans didn't want to reduce the deficit, that's why.

They wanted to put as much on America's charge card as possible, hoping that it would give them an excuse to destroy our country's social safety net.

But as it turns out, the services that our government provides to help disadvantaged or vulnerable Americans are very popular, and Republicans ran into trouble attempting to dismantle them (not that they didn't try).

We join with the many signatories of this statement in calling on President Obama and Democrats in Congress not to be swayed by the empty rhetoric of the other side. Austerity measures will not lead to a recovery. Progressive values must be the basis for our economic security policies, not right wing lip service.


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