From England’s double-dip recession to Portugal’s spiking unemployment, there is now conclusive evidence of the complete failure of austerity.
by Sally Kohn
Dec 03, 2013
The idea that rational thinking should govern political decision making in America dates back to our very founding. “Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams said, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
Oh, John Adams, where are you when we need you? Facts have been buried in a political era in which partisan ideology overrides reason. And while the Republican Party has embraced fact-free governance as its personal brand, Democrats are not entirely innocent either.
Take the case of “austerity politics.” Persistent, despite the facts. There is now conclusive evidence, both practical and theoretical, of the complete failure of austerity politics.
First was the United Kingdom, the practical test case for austerity. In 2010, faced with a recession similar to those gripping most other industrialized nations, Britain’s conservative government instituted a series of austerity measures to dramatically cut spending and taxes. Parts of the U.K. government were slashed by upwards of 30 percent.
The result? Utter and unquestionable failure. The deficit remained high while the country suffered through a double-dip recession. Austerity shaved 6 percent from the country’s GDP over the last three years. Major credit agencies downgraded Britain’s AAA rating for the first time in generations. The Fitch ratings agency blamed weak growth performance, “partly due to … public sector deleveraging.”
In other words: austerity. The International Monetary Fund has been pressuring the United Kingdom to back off austerity for its own good and the good of the global economy—which is funny because it was the International Monetary Fund that pressed for austerity measures in the first place.