Tag Archives: United Kingdom

One Recession or Many? Double-Dip Downturns in Europe

 
The recent release of a revised set of GDP statistics by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed that growth had not quite, as previously thought, been negative for two consecutive quarters in the winter of 2011-12.  The point, as it was reported, was that a UK recession (a second dip after the Great Recession of 2008-09) was now erased from the history books — and that the Conservative government would take a bit of satisfaction from this fact.    But it should not.    

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Procyclicalists Across the Atlantic Too

     My preceding post bemoaned the tendency for many US politicians to exhibit a procyclicalist pattern:    supporting tax cuts and spending increases when the economy is booming, which should be the time to save money for a rainy day, and then re-discovering the evils of budget deficits only in times of recession, thus supporting fiscal contraction at precisely the wrong time.  Procyclicalists exacerbate the magnitude of the swings in the business cycle.

        This is not just an American problem.  A similar unfortunate cycle — large fiscal deficits when the economy is already expanding anyway, followed by fiscal contraction in response to a recession — has also been visible in the United Kingdom and euroland in recent years.   Greece and Portugal are the two most infamous examples. But the larger European countries, as well, failed to take advantage of the expansionary period 2003-07 to strengthen their public finances, and instead ran budget deficits in excess of the limits (3% of GDP) that they were supposed to obey under the Stability and Growth Pact. Then, over the last few years, politicians in both the UK and the continent have made their recessions worse by imposing aggressive fiscal austerity at precisely the wrong time.

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