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The Troika and the New York Times Bury the Issues, not just the Lead

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""In a deflationary environment, monetary policy may thus not be able to sufficiently stimulate aggregate demand by using its interest rate instrument,' the E.C.B. says on its website. "This makes it more difficult for monetary policy to fight deflation than to fight inflation.'

Many economists argue, though, that it is already past time for the E.C.B. to take some sort of further action."

The ECB concedes it cannot counter deflation through monetary policy.  The deeper truth, ignored by the NYT, is that the ECB showed that it could not counter Spain, Italy, and Greece from falling into recession in 2007, that the troika responded to their weak recovery from the recession with the imposition of austerity that forced their economies into a Great Depression, and that the troika's (improbable) optimistic scenario is that Spain will emerge from "crisis" in 2024 -- 18 years after its housing bubble burst in 2006 and made inevitable the first recession.

But the Great Depressions in Spain, Italy, and Greece literally disappear from the NYT's account (which discusses only the existence of deflation in those countries) as does the use of austerity in a manner most akin to primitive "doctors" bleeding their patients to make them well -- and then bleeding them more when the earlier "treatment" weakened them.  Fiscal policy also literally disappears as an alternative -- even when the ECB admits that monetary policy cannot work.  The discussion becomes instead how long should the ECB wait and allow the patients (the unnamed Spain, Italy, and Greece) to bleed out until they reach the stage that can trigger organ failure.  The only debate presented is how long the ECB should allow the patients to bleed out without treatment -- an insane "debate."  And even then, the only treatment discussed is the use of monetary policy that even the proponents of austerity such as the ECB finally admit would be ineffective in treating the bleed.  The word, and the concept, of "fiscal" policy are removed from the article and the debate.

This sitting back and watching while the troika continues to bleed Spain, Italy, and Greece through austerity is Draghi perverse understanding of the "extreme caution" he admits is essential when treating a "fragile" patient.  The problem is grossly inadequate demand.  The cure is for government fiscal policy to provide the demand.  The cure prevents an aggravating syndrome of grossly inadequate demand -- deflation -- from arising.  Instead, we are presented by the NYT with a "debate" between two sets of financial quacks.  One group of financial physicians warns that we should be immediately wheeling the crash cart into the "recovery" room holding Spain, Italy, and Greece in case they "code."  The other group argues that we should wait a bit longer.  If they continue to bleed out and their blood pressure falls to 70/50, then the ECB will call for the crash cart.  Meanwhile, both sets of quacks continue to bleed the patient through austerity even though they know the problem is inadequate demand and they know that austerity further reduces demand (and causes human misery).  In the world of medicine, we'd fire all of these quacks -- including the reporters who covered the story without raising the obvious point that the doctors were quacks and their treatment was barbaric and harmed the patient's recovery.  Each of the quacks would soon be bankrupted by civil suits for malpractice.  In economics, we promote the quacks to important positions.

The NYT article falls so totally for the troika's framing of the obscenity of the gratuitous Great Depression that the troika inflicted on Spain and Italy that the following words essential to analyze the subject of the article never appear:  fiscal, austerity, unemployment, poverty, migration, recession, and depression.  The single most critical word, "demand," appears only once and in a fashion consistent with the troika's framing in the passage quoted above.

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""In a deflationary environment, monetary policy may thus not be able to sufficiently stimulate aggregate demand by using its interest rate instrument,' the E.C.B. says on its website."

Notice that the ECB treats inadequate demand as a hypothetical that might occur should "deflation" occur.  I explained that even the ECB concedes in this passage that monetary policy is generally ineffective in "stimulat[ing] aggregate demand" during a recession.  The ECB, however, does not talk about recessions; it talks about "deflation."

Inadequate demand is not a hypothetical.  It has been the reality in the EU periphery for seven years -- and the EU concedes that under its optimistic scenario it will be the reality in Spain for another ten years.  Deflation is also not a hypothetical, it is real in much of the periphery and because there is nothing magical when moves from virtually non-existent inflation to deflation, the harms that the troika ascribe to deflation must have been phasing in for over a year in much of the periphery.  (To mix medical metaphors: you give lots of clean water to cholera patients, preferably through ORT, and you continue to have them eat.  Austerity kills cholera patients.)

The obvious answer to the inadequate demand that is causing such damage to the EU is fiscal "stimul[us] [of] "aggregate demand."  The troika, however, with the complicity of the financial media, have turned fiscal stimulus into a "crime" so vile that it "dares not speak its name."  This is passing odd given that we've known for at least 75 years that fiscal stimulus that provdes the inadequate demand actually works.  Stimulus is the policy that Republicans follow in the U.S. whenever they hold the presidency and the Nation is dealing with a recession.

The NYT allows the troika to frame a "debate" that is the equivalent of a quarrel among "young earth" and "old earth" creationists about how to interpret Genesis in their design of course material for (not) teaching evolution and physics.  A debate about evolution and physics that excludes the scientists would be an obvious farce.  The NYT finds no need to alert its readers that economists have long known that fiscal stimulus of a magnitude large enough to provide the inadequate demand is highly effective.  The human costs of this orgy of economic and journalistic malpractice are staggering and should be unacceptable to both professions.

NYT and WSJ financial reporters desperately need to get away from Wall Street.  Come to the heartland.  We'll put on two days of discussions at UMKC to provide your journalists with the tools they need to escape the quacks' framing.  In the interim before you come, here is your cheat sheet.  Inadequate demand causes recessions and can eventually lead to deflation.  The solution to inadequate demand is for government fiscal policy to restore adequate demand.   
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William K Black , J.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Bill Black has testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee on the regulation of financial derivatives and House (more...)

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By 2024, Spain will no longer have an industrial e... by Scott Baker on Saturday, Feb 8, 2014 at 3:00:24 AM
The thieves who are responsible for the bloodletti... by Lois Gagnon on Sunday, Feb 9, 2014 at 7:35:24 AM