Economics and politics in the Second Great Depression

Posted: 18 October 2012 in Uncategorized
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The partisan knives are out on both wings of mainstream economics.

On the conservative side, John B. Taylor and other Romney advisers (including Kevin Hassett and and Glenn Hubbard), relying on the historical research of Michael Bordo and Joseph Haubrich [pdf], claim that the current economic crisis is an exception to the rule, and that Obama’s policies have failed. So, in their view, it’s time for a new (Romney) administration, which as if by magic will lead to a real recovery.

Then, on the liberal side, there’s Paul Krugman who, drawing from the historical research of Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, accuses Taylor and Company of denying the fact that financial-crisis-induced recessions are characterized by slow recoveries. So, it’s not Obama but, instead, the debt overhang that is to blame—and Romney’s one-point plan (tax cuts for the rich) won’t solve that problem.

The fact is, the historical research by both teams supports the proposition that the crisis that began in 2007-08 is unlike most downturns in U.S. history, save one: the First Great Depression.

Here is the comparison from Bordo and Haubrich’s paper (focusing on Gross Domestic Product from the peak):


And here’s the comparison (using different numbers, GDP per capita and unemployment rates) from Reinhart and Rogoff:


The only conclusion one can reach based on the historical research of both teams—Bordo and Haubrich and Reinhart and Rogoff—is that we’re in the midst of the Second Depression. And neither group of economists or presidential candidate is proposing a solution to that problem.

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