While the Administration and the Republicans and far too much of the commentariat are obsessed with public debt, private debts are killing the recovery. Some 22 percent of mortgages are still under water, and student debt has surpassed a trillion dollars. Banks can unload their toxic securities onto the Fed. Corporations can use the bankruptcy code's Chapter 11 to write off old debts (including to their pensioners) and get a "fresh start." But college borrowers stay indentured forever, as do underwater homeowners unless they want to lose the house.The upside-down policy, of cutting public spending, giving debt relief to banks and corporations, while showing no mercy to students and homeowners, keeps the whole economy in debtors' prison. Until these policies change, we can look forward to a decade of high unemployment and an underperforming economy.
This just in: austerity doesn't work! It doesn't work here, it doesn't work in Europe, it doesn't work for state and local governments. I'm tempted to ask how many data points we need to recognize this crucial economic truth, but I'm afraid data points don't have much to do with it. After last month's disappointing report, I was careful to point out that "one month does not a trend make" and there are some technical reasons -- mostly seasonal adjustments that haven't caught up with unusually warm weather -- to consider as well. Well, two months doesn't quite a trend make either, but it's getting closer.