May 14, 2012 4:44PM

Krugman Is Wrong about Austerity in Britain – Say the Brits

When, late last month, Great Britain slipped back into recession, New York Times’ Paul Krugman saw it as a vindication of his neo‐​Keynesian policies. According to Krugman, Britain failed to return to growth, because David Cameron’s government stepped on the fiscal break instead of infusing the British economy with more borrowed funds. My colleagues Juan Carlos Hidalgo from Cato and Veronique De Rugy from the Mercatus Center have already pointed out that austerity in Europe is something of a chimera. Spending cuts have been small, while tax increases have been large (a bad combination, in my view). Not to beat a dead horse, but here is a take on the British situation from, so to speak, the horse’s mouth:

Tullett Prebon, a bond trader, said that “public expenditures have hardly been reduced at all” and that claims of a “big cut in public spending is bare‐​faced deception”.

Figures highlighted by the firm show that public spending actually rose during 2010-11 and fell by just 1.5 percent last year.

Government spending is more than £22 billion higher than it was in 2008 when the financial crisis erupted.

The majority of extra money required by ministers to fill the black hole in the finances caused by the recession is being raised from extra taxes rather than cuts in Government spending.

Dr. Tim Morgan, the global head of research at Tullett Prebon, said: “It’s high time that this mendacity was exposed for what it is. Government has done very little about its spending, has appropriated three‐​quarters of all gains in economic output for its own use, has carried on piling up debt – and has tried to pass all this off as ‘responsible austerity’.

“The motivation for government spin is obvious enough. On the one hand, rises in market interest rates could be a disaster, given the extent to which British households are leveraged. On the other, implementing the real cuts required to back up a genuine austerity package have proved politically unpalatable.”

Dr. Morgan warned that it seemed “improbable” that the bond markets would “continue to fall for this spin‐​job” and would “sooner rather than later” call the Government to account.