Let’s cut to the real nonsense in the interview, though – dangerous nonsense.
RTE: ‘But do you accept the if you go as far some analysts are advising you . . .in regard to cutting public spending, you may actually make a bad situation worse.’
Minister: ;Well, that is always the danger. But it has to be said that last year after a decline of 10 percent in GNP, a very rigorous budget which removed €4 billion of public expenditure still left the economy stabilised.
If the Minister said this because he had to say something in a tight spot, you’d just regard it as another bit of spin. But if he (and this goes for anyone else) actually believes this, we are in deeper trouble than we can imagine. For it is simply not true.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the ESRI said before the last budget:
'There is now much discussion of the nature of these measures (i.e. the proposed budgetary measures for 2010) which are equivalent to almost 3 per cent of GDP on a full year basis. The consequences of such a further sharp correction are, by our estimation, significantly deflationary. Were there to be a neutral budget in 2010, then our estimates would suggest that the recovery in GDP would occur much earlier in the year leading to positive growth in GDP for the year as a whole.'
In discussing the upcoming 2011 budget, the ESRI had this to say:
'We estimate that such a budget package would reduce the General Government Deficit by between 1½ and 2 percentage points of GDP. The impact on the wider economy is to reduce the growth rate by approximately one percentage point. In addition, the level of employment is lower and emigration flows higher than in the absence of such a package. These are real costs attached to the programme of fiscal consolidation being pursued by the government.'
In short, the economy would have grown this year by a higher amount if the anchor of these deflationary cuts had not been tied around legs. How much? Using the ESRI multipliers, the Government’s budget last year depressed economic growth by about 1.7 to 1.9 percent. Were it not for the spending cuts, we’d be well back into growth or at least a lot better off than we are now.
This is basic economics – spending cuts (and tax increases, especially on low and average income earners) cut growth. That’s its function. At certain points in the economic cycle it is a valid instrument. If the Government had cut tax expenditures to the property market a few years it would have taken some heat out of the asset bubble – in other words, it would have cut the growth in an over-heated property market.I’ll repeat it again: cutting public spending cuts growth.
Had the captain not aimed the submarine full speed towards the bottom of the ocean, the crew might not be back at the surface; but they wouldn’t be on the ocean floor, listening to the sound of the hull crushing.