Who Is Assigning Gramsci's Prison Notebooks for a Fall Economics Course at MIT?
Yes, This Is a Really Big Downturn

If Paul Krugman Is Going to Be Always Right, I Really Wish He Would Be a Little More Optimistic...

Paul Krugman compares:

Ezra Klein:

What went wrong with stimulus: The original stimulus package should've been bigger. Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says the Treasury Department originally asked for $1.4 trillion. Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wanted $1.2 trillion. What we got was... more like $700 billion when you took out the AMT patch that was jammed into the package. So we knew it was too small then, and the recession it was designed to fight turned out to be larger than we'd predicted. In the end, we took a soapbox racer to a go-kart track and then realized we were competing against actual cars. This was a mistake.... I wonder if it wasn't fed by a belief that there'd be other chances.... No one in the political system could possibly look at 10 percent unemployment and walk away from it, right?

Wrong. Ten percent unemployment and a terrible recession ended up discrediting the people trying to do more for the economy, as their previous intervention was deemed a failure. That, in turn, empowered the people attempting to do less for the economy. So rather than a modestly sized stimulus leaving the door open for more stimulus if needed, its modest size was used to discredit the idea of more stimulus when it became needed.

Paul Krugman, March 2009:

Behind the Curve - NYTimes.com: President Obama’s plan to stimulate the economy was “massive,” “giant,” “enormous.” So the American people were told, especially by TV news, during the run-up to the stimulus vote. Watching the news, you might have thought that the only question was whether the plan was too big, too ambitious. Yet many economists, myself included, actually argued that the plan was too small and too cautious. The latest data confirm those worries — and suggest that the Obama administration’s economic policies are already falling behind the curve....

There are now three big questions about economic policy. First, does the administration realize that it isn’t doing enough? Second, is it prepared to do more? Third, will Congress go along with stronger policies?...

Obama’s latest interview with The Times [is] anything but reassuring. “Our belief and expectation is that we will get all the pillars in place for recovery this year,” the president declared — a belief and expectation that isn’t backed by any data or model I’m aware of. To be sure, leaders are supposed to sound calm and in control. But in the face of the dismal data, this remark sounded out of touch. And there was no hint in the interview of readiness to do more... he went on to dismiss calls for decisive action as coming from “blogs” (actually, they’re coming from many other places, including at least one president of a Federal Reserve bank), and suggested that critics want to “nationalize all the banks” (something nobody is proposing). As I read it, this dismissal — together with the continuing failure to announce any broad plans for bank restructuring — means that the White House has decided to muddle through on the financial front, relying on economic recovery to rescue the banks rather than the other way around. And with the stimulus plan too small to deliver an economic recovery ... well, you get the picture.

Sooner or later the administration will realize that more must be done. But when it comes back for more money, will Congress go along? Republicans are now firmly committed to the view that we should do nothing.... So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed. But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

O.K., that’s a warning, not a prediction. But economic policy is falling behind the curve, and there’s a real, growing danger that it will never catch up.