Two posts yesterday. The first was “Gratifying Signs of Desperation:”
On both sides of the Atlantic, the austerians seem to be freaking out. And that has to be good news, an indication that they realize, at some level, that they’re losing the debate.
First up, the sad story of Joe Scarborough, whose response to my anti-austerian appearance on his show has been a bizarre campaign to convince the world that absolutely nobody of consequence shares my views. Why is this bizarre? Because while I could be wrong about macroeconomics (although I’m not), it’s just not true, provably not true, that I’m alone in arguing that the current and near-future deficit aren’t problems. (Among others, there’s this guy you may have heard of).
So in the latest twist, JoScar is citing my Princeton colleague Alan Blinder, who he claims is totally at odds with my position. Hmm. The article he’s citing (which is in the Atlantic, not the New Yorker)), bears the following headline:
Not so different from me.
Meanwhile, Olli Rehn of the European Commission, a firm advocate of austerity, responds to the disastrous economic news in Europe, which has confirmed the warnings of austerity critics and led to a widespread reassessment of fiscal multipliers; it seems that they are large in a liquidity trap, just as some of us predicted. Rehn’s answer? We need to stop putting out these economic studies, because they’re undermining confidence in austerity!
As I said, these signs of desperation are gratifying. Unfortunately, these people have already done immense damage, and still retain the power to do a lot more.
His second post was “Minimum Wage Economics:”
I’m doing this kind of backwards, writing about the politics first. But I wanted to have my intellectual ducks — or rather, my lucky duckies — in a row before taking on the economics. And while I was grubbing around, Mike Konczal produced the perfect post summing it all up.
So what should you know? First, as John Schmitt (pdf) documents at length, there just isn’t any evidence that raising the minimum wage near current levels would reduce employment. And this is a really solid result, because there have been a *lot* of studies. We can argue about exactly why the simple Econ 101 story doesn’t seem to work, but it clearly doesn’t — which means that the supposed cost in terms of employment from seeking to raise low-wage workers’ earnings is a myth.
Second — and this is news to me — the usual notion that minimum wages and the Earned Income Tax Credit are competing ways to help low-wage workers is wrong. On the contrary, raising the minimum wage is a way to make the EITC work better, ensuring that its benefits go to workers rather than getting shared with employers. This actually is Econ 101, but done right: given a second-best world in which you use imperfect tools to help deserving workers, two tools together can produce a better outcome than either one on its own.
So a minimum wage increase isn’t some kind of counsel-of-despair way to help workers a bit in a dysfunctional political scene (although there’s that too); it’s actually good policy.