What is going on?  Why did the voters decide to partially put back in power the party that caused the economic crisis?  The best answer yet is in this column by Matt Yglesias.

Basically, many Very Serious People have a model of the economy, and views on how to fix it, that are plausible, convincing, and dangerously wrong.  To them– most Republicans, most Democratic moderates, and all too often President Obama– the economy is a zero-sum game, and a recession is like a war, or like a financial reverse within a family… bad times that have to be endured and, importantly, spread around.  It’s somehow unfair if some people are escaping the general misery… they should do their part and suffer too.  In particular government ought to cut spending and embrace austerity– as Evan Bayh puts it, “Government isn’t a privileged class and cannot be immune to the times.”

It sounds very serious, its very astringency a seeming guarantee of its good sense.  In fact it’s counter-productive nonsense.  We’re in a recession.  What we need is people producing more and spending more.  If the private sector doesn’t do it, government has to.  It does not produce prosperity to reduce spending and economic activity even more.

The Bayh model is basically: if someone in your family lost their job, you must share the pain by having other members lose their job too.  On that level anyone can see that the advice is nonsense, but it sounds more reasonable when it’s applied to The Government. 

But it’s bad advice that’s going to have a long reach and keep the economy down for years.  The case of Japan shows that a zero-bound recession can persist indefinitely

The big news this week is the deficit commission proposal.  For the above reasons, it would be crazy to actually take their advice right now.  On the other hand, it should be used early and often to rub the Tea Party’s face in reality.  You want to cut spending, support this actual plan or come up with your own.  Somehow I don’t see them running to support a plan that cuts defense, Social Security benefits, and the mortgage interest deduction.

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