Economists To World: Muddle Through?

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 9 2011 @ 7:11pm


Nouriel Roubini and Ian Bremmer debate the international financial crisis. Roubini is frustrated by the political outlook:

I think the fundamental problem is that tough choices need to be made — gradual fiscal austerity, structural reform — [which] imply [the necessity of] governments that can look beyond the electoral cycle. And we don't have a situation in which this is possible, when growth is anemic, unemployment is high, and deleveraging is painful. Governments don't have the leadership to do the right thing, not nationally, and not in terms of international cooperation. So, smart individuals might be here and there, but fundamentally, there is a political economy problem in most advanced economies that remains unresolved.

Ian Bremmer's prognosis should raise the hair on your neck:

The real point is that this has been the year of kicking the can down the road. The Europeans are doing it; Japanese are doing it; the Americans are showing that they're doing it. And the biggest danger is (though, I personally don't think it's 2013-2014; it's later) is the Chinese are kicking a bigger can farther down the road than anyone else.

Felix Salmon advises those freaking out in the US. My own view is that deleveraging takes time and we should be patient. That's awful news for the unemployed, but more debt now wouldn't help. We have essentially borrowed prosperity from the future for the last thirty years. And now the future is the present. The music stopped before Obama took office, it is now clear. But he's left with the legacy.

Who do I blame? The feckless, selfish boomers – but mainly the most feckless boomer of them all, George W. Bush, now uncontroversially the worst president in all of our lifetimes. All those future spending cuts should have his name embossed on them; and when the tax increases come, as they must, they should bear his name.

(Chart: NYT.)