Mark Skousen, an Austrian School economist, attended a recent meeting if the American Economic Association, the professional association of academic economists. He has reported on the views of major Keynesian economists.
The big cannon should be fiscal policy [more deficit spending].” — Peter Diamond, Nobel Prize Economist and New Fed Member
Peter Diamond’s Solution to the Unemployment Problem: Tax (the Rich) and Spend!
Panels are always the most provocative, and usually involved famous people. This year the panels were dominated by Keynesian Nobel Prize winners such as Paul Krugman and Peter Diamond. Diamond was just appointed by President Obama to be a new Fed member. A major topic at this year’s conference was the lousy employment numbers. The unemployment rate is 8.5%, and more importantly, job openings are falling. Apparently the unemployed are dropping out of the labor force and giving up.
He will be in a position to influence monetary policy.
What to do? “The big cannon is now fiscal policy,” Diamond said. He recommended that Washington spend more and run even deeper deficits, preferably on education, R&D, and infrastructure, not foreign wars. And he meant “now is the time to act to get people back to work.”
More than $1.7 trillion a year? Aren’t we risking default like Europe? Apparently not. “There is no imminent debt problem in the United States as there is in Europe,” he responded.
Since he was headed to the Fed, I asked him what he would recommend Bernanke do to stimulate the economy. “Should we inflate our way out?”
“There is no inflation problem today,” he said. Meaning: Get the printing presses going 24/7!
Could government regulation be a problem? Of course not!
I asked Diamond and other experts on why the employment market was so stagnant. Was it due to excessive regulation (ObamaCare, Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank, minimum wage)? They said “no” to all these reasons. But higher taxes and unpredictable monetary policy could hamper the recovery in the jobs market. . . .
Diamond is an advocate of a sharp increase in the marginal tax rate on wealthy individuals — to as high as 73%, according to the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives — and without any loopholes. He says the studies show this high rate won’t hurt incentives. Really?
Diamond is not alone.
ul Krugman echoed Diamond. He told me that the only option left open now is “more massive deficit spending.”
What about the fear that we are headed toward default European style?
“Not a chance,” he replied. “We’re years away.” He pointed out that Treasury bonds are still rising, so there’s no worry. (10 year bond yield is under 2%!)
I pointed to numerous examples of developed countries (Canada, Sweden, New Zealand) that had cut spending and reduced their deficits, and their economies flourished. “Not relevant!” he exclaimed. “None of these countries were suffering from a severe recession.”
Would he favor a cut in the corporate tax rate, as advocated even by Democrats? “No,” he said emphatically. In fact, he supports a tax increase on wealthy Americans, up to 50% without loopholes.
Sadly, these are the kind of economists who President Obama is listening to. Can we afford another four years of tax and spend? It’s scary.