United Kingdom

Whatever Does Paul Krugman Mean By "Austerity" in the UK?


Over at the New York Times this morning, Nobel Prize winning defender of government spending Paul Krugman pulls out some charts to show that economic growth in the UK for the past few has been less than some people think they guess it might have been given the historical record. (That is, "the output path has now diverged below what a wide range of plausible historical projections might excuse," harumph.)

The Krug blames this on….don't cheat….

Gee, remember the enthusiasm with which the Cameron/Osborne turn to austerity was greeted by VSPs on both sides of the pond, with David Broder urging Obama to "do a Cameron"?

It always becomes the Nobel Prize winner to use the rhetorical dismissive "Gee." I believe they are instructed to do so in all their serious writing henceforth.

What Kruggy baby does not provide is any definition of or evidence for "austerity."

From the charts gathered at UKpublicspending.co.uk, if they are true, we find that from either 2007 or 2008 to 2011, UK government spending has gone up both in total numbers and as percentage of GDP.

From 2007 to 2011, 543.96 to 681.33 billion pounds total spending; from 2008, 575.97 to 681.33. The GDP percentage of total spending in 2007 was 38.69, in 2008 40.17, and in 2011 45.13. Population increase from 2007 to 2011 has been about 1.5 million. 

Possibly relevant subcatagories such as welfare have also seen rises in both terms of GDP (from 5.91 percent in 2007 to 7.46 in 2011) and raw numbers (83.09 billion in 2007 to 112.68 billion 2011). Transportation the same, rising from 18 billion in spending in 2007 to 19.86 billion in 2011, and from 1.28 to 1.32 as percentage of GDP from 2007 to 2011.

I know that to Krugman it's an article of faith that if growth is insufficient, then government spending has been insufficient. But if he's going to throw around the word "austerity" so much he should explain precisely what he means. I noted Krugman's unwillingness to actually give facts when speaking of European austerity back in May.

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    1. I am an anti-Christ
      I am an autster-ist,
      Don’t know what I want
      But I know how to get it.
      I wanna destroy the whole country
      ‘Cos I wanna see, austerity

      1. Seeing that dude from Vice Guide sing that at a Pyongyang karaoke bar was the best thing ever.

  1. They’re also running enormous deficits. They also increased taxes, just increasing spending by more.

    I disagree with you on monetary policy, but Krugman calling the UK “austerity” beggars belief.

    1. I believe that’s “buggers belief.”

      1. Sorry, not sure if serious.

    2. Do you mean fiscal policy?

  2. Its a simple formula:

    If the UK economy did not recover, then government spending was inadequate.

    If government spending was inadequate, then the UK is following a policy of austerity.

    Ergo, if the economy did not recover, austerity is to blame.


  3. He’s got a hell of a racket going. It’s a con job extraordinaire and he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
    Charts and graphs, curves and spikes, a petri dish playground where he nudges little tokens on a board, all the while forgetting that human beings act on infinite impulses and choices — choices which he and his audience love to control.
    But gotta hand it to him. He makes a posh living out of it.

    1. Debt: A Problem for Other People!

  4. austerity measure = less than 10% increase over last years budget

    1. Unfortunately true.

      Next person I hear bitching about sequestration is going to feel the heat from my verbal wrath.

      $1 trillion in cuts over ten years on a budget that will accumulate $10 trillion in more debt over the same period.

      What the fuck is wrong with people? Are they really that stupid?

      1. What the fuck is wrong with people? Are they really that stupid?


        When I criticize Obama’s tax plan because raising an extra $80 billion a year from rich people does nothing to address a deficit over $1 trillion, I get blank stares.

  5. I was arguing with some British statists here about this a couple of weeks ago. Basically they’re saying how they ARE implementing austerity, and I referred to the fact that their spending continues to go up, even in relation to their GDP (I actually didn’t KNOW this to be a fact, but it turned out to be a pretty damn good assumption). Then one of them said like they cancelled some program that one of her retard nephews used to go to, and that proved that they were being austere.

    The other two chicks in the car (one other Brit, one American Obama worshipper) completely agreed. These are people who all have Masters degrees (Oxford, Swansea, GMU).

    I was like “Really? That’s austerity?”

    She said, and I think this is as close to an exact quote as I can get, “There are programs that used to be there that are gone, that’s austerity.”

    At which point, I fucking floored it to the hotel bar, because I needed as much gin as I could handle as quickly as possible.

    1. I suggest hanging out with less retarded people. You might need less gin, not that less gin is necessarily a good thing.

      1. They’re the only ones that speak English that I can understand around here.

        Also I usually get along great with all of them, as long as we don’t talk about politics.

        1. as long as we don’t talk about politics.

          You too?

        2. Also I usually get along great with all of them, as long as we don’t talk about politics.

          That pretty much describes everyone I know.

          I’ve found that an easy way to terminate a friendship is to bring up politics.

          1. My problem is that back in the states no one I knew could even have an educated conversation on politics, government or civics. So, even while I wouldn’t necessarily argue with someone, I couldn’t even have an actual conversation.

            Now out here, everyone is fully embedded in politics/government/civics, it’s just they’re all socialists (except the New Zealanders who are closet totalitarians). So when I do have conversations, they end up as arguments or just complete disbelief (as in the whole “You deal with criminals and warlords and stuff how the hell can you believe in gun rights!?”)

            1. I’ve gotten to the age where I just don’t give a shit any longer.

              Life’s too short for arguing with ideological idiots, even at a bar.

            2. It is interesting how educated and otherwise rational people devolve into emotive children when it comes to politics.

              One question I really detest on the subject of politics is “How do you feel about such-and-such?”

              They simply do not grasp the concept of thinking instead of feeling.

              1. That’s because you can never be wrong when you’re feeling.

                Feeling is a cheap substitute for intellectual effort that has gained credence with our culture. That is our downfall.

                1. Feeling is a cheap substitute for intellectual effort that has gained credence with our culture. That is our downfall.

                  All beginning with the “self-esteem” movement in schools. Another reason compulsory education is a bad idea.

                  Just ask your idiot friends that if “feeling” is so much more important, then what was their feeling about being forced to go to school then they were 12 years old? Is school’s purpose to train you to FEEL better or THINK better?

              2. It’s just pure cognitive dissonance.

                It’s so easy with the Brits. When I tell them that taxes are extortion, they say “No, I’d pay them voluntarily!”.

                And then I say, “But you don’t pay them now, since you don’t live in Britain. Why don’t you pay them?”

                “But that’s crazy.”

                Doesn’t work with the Americans of course.

                1. That’s because they perceive taxes as payment for services rendered or to be rendered. Still doesn’t make it voluntary.

            3. If that last sentence isn’t pure hyperbole, I am hard pressed to understand how you can call them educated. That is a fundamental error in set designation on display. Is it just an affectation with these people, and the smoother language and word choices seem to have a coherence to them than what you hear state side?

              1. Well, that and the low cut blouses.

                And no, it’s actually near verbatim, not hyperbole. But people believe prohibition works if you just prohibit enough things.

                I mean I think a big part of it on the gun side is that the British really don’t have much experience with them. And they don’t really believe in the whole citizenship thing too much either.

                1. I grew up watching Avengers reruns. I think I would have an infinite level of tolerance for any silly nonsense if it came out of Emily Peel’s mouth that I would also not be able to take for a minute from my on site office manager from Saint Louis.

                  1. It is not an ugly accent in her case just brutally functional.

        3. Hang out with non-English speakers. They’re just as stupid, but since you can’t understand them you save your sanity.

          And they’re just as interested in sex and drinking so you don’t miss out on the important stuff.

    2. Are you not in Liberia? If so, where on Earth do you go to get away from the stupid?*

      *other than Somolia

      1. I don’t, there’s nohwere to go to get away from it. Just self-medicate and avoid political discussions whenever possible.

        1. Just self-medicate and avoid political discussions whenever possible.


    3. Wait, so two programs at two billion each is more austere than three programs at one billion each?

      I hope the chicks were at least hot and willing.

      1. I’m basically a mercenary, and they work for the UN. Frankly, I’m happy they’re even speaking to me.

        1. I don’t mean mercenary to sound bad ass, just in that I get paid to do things.

          1. Do things that are bad ass1

    4. These are people who all have Masters degrees (Oxford, Swansea, GMU).

      In what? Interpretive Dance, Cossack Literature of the 19th Century, and Queer Studies of South Asian Pygmies, respectively?

      1. Actually one was Literature (with a focus on Russian)! Some sort of History/Poli Sci crap for the other two.

        1. God save us from liberal arts douchebags in positions of power.

        2. I would hope that anyone continuing to matriculate in the complete folly that is Political Science would have the decency to take away from the experience that governments, across time and location, tend to attract the corrupt and the incompetent, and should be entrusted with as little power as possible.

          At least, that’s what I learned.

          1. As a political science major, I concur with your sentiment that it’s total bullshit and a complete waste of time. However, it does allow one to maximize fun by minimizing effort required of a degree.
            The most important thing I remember is a professor telling the class that their precious vote was worthless.

        3. Actually one was Literature (with a focus on Russian)!

          While I am not formally educated upon the subject, I have read a few books of Russian literature and am amazed at the individualism I find there.

          Right now I am reading Crime and Punishment and there is a character that practically quotes Adam Smith (or Ayn Rand) in regard to the benefit to all from being self-centered.

          To have a focus on Russian literature and still be a Socialist is purposeful ignorance.

    5. Expats from NGO-landia are not know for their acknowledgment of reality.

      1. Ding ding ding. Although they’re not really ex-pats, they all fully intend to go home after a few years.

    6. I have had nearly the same conversation with people who cite as evidence of austerity that the Greeks are rioting or some minister cried on the Parliament floor.

      1. some minister cried on the Parliament floor.


    7. Some things are stupid that you need at least a Masters degree to believe them.

  6. Brian, while I appreciate your insulting style of response, I’m bothered that you never referred to him as either Paulie Krugnuts or Krugabe.

  7. A cat. There’s ALWAYS CAT.

    1. *always a cat.

    2. Who wants to bet Krugman wears a wig, too?

  8. If people are still willing to lend a country money, it’s being austere.

    1. N.B.: No one being willing to lend a country money is a necessary but not sufficient condition to avoid entering the dread austerity zone. For instance, if the country still has the military/police power to take money from people, yet is not doing so, it is also being austere.

  9. Does austerity mean we can no longer afford alt-text?

    1. “Inflation: The libido. The life force. The essence. The right stuff. What the French call a certain… I don’t know what.”

    2. This one is almost forgivable, because, well that picture kind of speaks for itself.

    3. No Mister Bond, I expect you to die.

    4. “Man has climbed Mt. Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor? except economic stimulation!”

  10. im thinking “austerity in the UK” done to the music of “Anarchy in the UK”.

    mebbe one of our lyrical geniuses…

    1. doh. FIRST POST

      mebbe i need to RTFT first :l

      1. Ya think?

  11. Krunutsnomics: “We can’t be broke. We still have checks left.”

    1. Krugabenomics is catchier

  12. In austere Britain in 2014 they will spend more on foreign aid then they do on their own police budget


    1. Lone Starr: What is this?

      Princess Vespa: It’s my industrial-strength hair-dryer, and I can’t live without it!

  13. Verbally flogging Krugman never gets old.

  14. It is incredibly difficult to cut real public spending. Margaret Thatcher has a fearsome reputation on this score but when she left office, real spending was 5% higher than when she started.


  15. One SHOULD argue that increasing tax rates – something Britain did indeed implement – actually IS a form of austerity.

    But Krugabe thinks increased taxation is a good idea so he’d never call it austerity.

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