Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catch of the Day

I'm a bit late on this, but Andrew Sullivan deserves one for his takedown of a Tim Cavanaugh line about how Barack Obama is supposedly getting away with ruining the nation. I think part of this is normal rhetoric -- it's reasonable for Obama's opponents to complain about "vast unemployment...a moribund economy, record deficits" even if it's also reasonable for Obama's supporters and neutral observers to note that Obama inherited those conditions.

But what really interests me is the part that I skipped over in that quote, which is "soaring inflation." Just entirely bizarre; inflation, as Sullivan documents, has been basically flat during the Obama presidency. It's not just Cavanaugh, either, although at least some of the inflation Chicken Littles, such as Tom Coburn, only say that it's just around the corner. Of course, Ron Paul and his gang, along with all the goldbugs, are big on this one. My favorite thing is that there's a whole group of people who think it's clever to call the Fed chair "Zimbabwe Ben." You know, because the three great examples of hyperinflation are Zimbabwe, Weimar Germany, and Bernanke-era US. I know I've gone through three wheelbarrows already this year...

If we had wonk elections in which the candidates actually debated their real policy preferences -- not that I'm saying we should, but if we did -- then one of the central issues of the 2012 election would be whether we should be focused on inflation or jobs. I think this is one of those areas in which the press gives a party a pass because it's position just seems so improbable -- I'm thinking of the Bush Administrations (operational at least, but also theoretical in many cases) lack of interest in going after bin Laden as another example, along with the current GOP's preference for fighting inflation over jobs. In both cases, in my view at least the GOP position does have a serious argument to be made on its behalf, but there's no way it's an electoral winner. Anyway, we don't have those kinds of elections, and the press isn't interested in pushing a substantive debate over it, so there you are.

At any rate: nice catch!


  1. Hyperinflation is just around the corner, and has been for several years.

    Also: 'Zimbabwe Ben' is a nice dog whistle.

    1. Indeed. Perhaps Tom Coburn is the Harold Camping of hyperinflation?

  2. JB: "in my view at least the GOP position does have a serious argument to be made on its behalf, but there's no way it's an electoral winner."

    Why couldn't an argument for zealously focusing on inflation be an electoral winner?

    It would clearly appeal to anyone in the electorate who (a) has a job or maintained a job unproblematically during their working years and (b) regards themselves to a significant degree as a creditor rather than a debtor, as someone relying on fixed income, or as someone who thinks money should morally or in a folk-wisdom sort of way be a store of value.

    It would seem to me that that very well might encompass greater than 50% of the electorate.

    1. "or in a folk-wisdom sort of way be *solely* a store of value" is what I should have made clear. Money of course always has the role of being a store of value, in which case all else being equal its stability is to be preferred or, more often, it having a predictable rate of devaluation.

    2. I think JB is right on this one. Yes, even in a recession, the large majority of people that want jobs, have jobs.
      However, the sociotropic voting argument holds that voters take the situation of "others" into account very often. "I have a job, but if they fired me, I'd be in trouble." "My friends in this industry are suffering." "If I apply for a better job, I'll be competing with thousands of others."

      I think, at the end of the day, those kinds of thoughts are more compelling to most than the "inflation hurts my purchasing power" argument. The average credit card debt per household that has debt is $15K; the average American owes $78K total (mortgages, credit, student loans, what-have-you), so there's a lot of debtors out there. The ones who would find inflation so heinous would likely be older, both because of the fixed income and the lower debt load they usually have (having been paying off the house for much of their lives), but also because they would remember periods when inflation was really bad. At this point, I'd say a person would have to be 45+ to really have a memory of high inflation being a problem,

  3. Oh, everything's a dog whistle to you lot.

    He's very rarely called Zimbabwe Ben, the normal appelation is Helicopter Ben. But no doubt that's racist too.

    Look, I don't believe in these inflationist critiques. But the idea that monetary policy affects inflation by "long and variable lags" is hardly one that was made up to attack the Obama administration.

  4. It kind of reminds me of Perlstein's account in Nixonland - Nixon was running around the country talking about how the President's policies would soon lead to massive inflation.

    Maybe it's a signaling device, or signaling rhetoric, to the finance/banking community -> "listen, we know that inflation hurts your bottom line by devaluing the debt you hold, we'll do what we can to keep it low, unlike this other guy".

  5. "You know, because the three great examples of hyperinflation are Zimbabwe, Weimar Germany, and Bernanke-era US."

    Hyperinflation is MUCH more common than you may believe. Now that Greece is on the verge of exit, we could see it again when they switch back to the drachma. Japanese debt just got down graded by Fitch because the debt to GDP is well over 200% and set to continue growing. The slightest raise in interest rate their will lead to awful consequences.

    1. "MUCH more common than you may believe." OK, I think, I'll hear you out on what's being overlooked...

      Then you give two potential future cases: one involving a dissolving currency union and loss of competitiveness. And the other involving decades-long flirtation with deflation in which the problems of a singularly large debt burden could become a big economic problem, but not as a catalyst for hyperinflation.

    2. Well, the wiki article lists 23 examples. Over the course of world history. Of those, a fair number aren't really independent; there are a bunch that basically surround the breakup of Yugoslavia (and a few more that are related to the breakup of the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact), and then there are a bunch of Weimer era ones. A bunch of others are related to wars, occupations, and aftermaths of wars. There are a few others, but it really isn't all that common.

    3. PF,

      I should be more clear; Bernstein mentioned the three great examples with one being non-existent. I've noticed that liberals believe hyperinflation is much rarer than a simple Wikipedia search shows, but I'm not saying that the US is looking at it anytime soon. (But DeLong's snarky metric is nonsense.)

      "... could become a big economic problem, but not as a catalyst for hyperinflation."

      How will Japan pay its debts and fund its growing welfare state if confidence lowers enough to put interest rates at 3% with approximately 2.5-3X debt to GDP? Japan would not be the first country to inflate its way out of a giant problem and into a bigger one and it's not getting any younger. Central banks can always print themselves some inflation.

    4. Professor Bernstein,

      "... there are a bunch that basically surround the breakup of Yugoslavia (and a few more that are related to the breakup of the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact)... "

      So you admit that 23 is bigger than 2. That's progress. What do you think we're looking at in Europe right now?

    5. I think you're misinterpreting what I said. I wasn't saying they were the only two examples ever, just that they were the most famous ones (oh, maybe add a South American one, don't know).

      There's no hyperinflation in Europe right now, and the issues there aren't remotely comparable to what the US is dealing with.

  6. The idea that hyperinflation can't happen to the United States -- because we're the United States -- is beyond flawed logic. History begs to differ; you have, essentially, rhetoric dismissing the Weimar Republic. That's your only defense: "well, it won't be us. Not this time."

    Rome is calling.

    I suspect, had this been a GOP administration, you'd have written several scathing pieces about the currency-destroying policies of the federal government.

    Step away from your government-provided inflation figures. The proof is in the pudding. Please walk into the grocery store. Check out the price of a gallon of milk. Reference said gallon of milk with, say, the price of a gallon of milk three years ago.

    You still couln't admit significant inflation. Because then it would mean going against your party of choice. Or you might admit it, but then throw in the government's line that it's "food and energy, which is always volatile".

    This is the problem with deep partisanship. It is the death of honest observation and the birth of the drone.

    1. Food and energy prices are discounted as volatile by Republican administrations as well. The assertion that technical analysis is really partisan analysis for the other side is all that sustains your argument.

    2. The logic isn't "it can't happen in the US."

      The logic is "it ISN'T happening in the US."

      My grocery bill has gone up (more than a little..I'd guess 10-20% in 4 years), as has my gas bill (or, rather, the price at the personal bill has shrunk considerably). But my clothing bill has not. My electronics bill has not. My credit card bills don't seem noticably higher. So, I choose to rely on the government statistics because what I see in my own purchases doesn't send the clearest of signals.

      (Oh, and I'll use 5 years ago as my reference point; 3-4 years ago is just a matter of picking in the middle of the decline--if prices for everything aren't significantly higher in 2012 than 2009, something is very wrong with my economics textbook).

      Look, I've said before on this blog that I find the argument that our current policies could lead to inflation to be persuasive; the logic is decent. But, you do have to admit that the whole scenario is eerily similar to Chicken Little. Hyperinflation has been "right around the corner" for at least 5 years now, and I think that's only the time I've been aware of the argument; the claim's been around for somewhat longer, I suspect.

      Also, your logic is very questionable. Were JB being blinded by partisanship AND McCain had won in 2008 and the world otherwise the same, I suspect that JB wouldn't be crowing about inflation. Not because he would like McCain, but because inflation has never been our hobby horse over here on the left. Would JB (or me, or any Dem) be complaining more about unemployment numbers than we are? Probably. That would fit with our worldview. But, unless inflation was at the 1970s levels, liberals aren't going to focus on that. You'll find Dems acting as apologists on job numbers during Dem administrations, sure. But I really don't see them doing it on inflation...we just don't care about it as much as the folks across the aisle do.

    3. Careful about the figures. Price at the pump has gone up, but not much -- it's up 50 cents over the five years you specified. It's down, not up, about 20 cents over four years.

  7. Perhaps the best part about Sullivan's post is this exquisite, uninentionally-hilarious and ironic observation: "...the record (deficit) is held by George W. Bush, whose final fiscal year clocked in at $1,413 billion, after eight years of astounding fiscal recklessness. This coming fiscal year, the deficit is projected to be $1,300 billion".

    This is, unmistakably, a feature of Obamanomics to Sullivan, not a bug. To borrow a Sullivan-coined term: the hathos of that is simply unbelievable.

    First of all, Bush's final fiscal year ran from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. On October 3, 2008, this little thing called TARP was enacted, providing hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to the financial sector. If you are interested, visit the OMB website, click on 'historic tables', and note that Bush's $1.4 T deficit was driven by an increase in outlays from $3.0 T to $3.5 T in 2009 - certainly virtually all TARP.

    Then notice that the projected outlay in Obama's 2012 budget is around $3.8 T; a whopping 27% higher than Bush's final pre-TARP year (2008). But that's not even the hathetic part. No, the hathetic thing is the chart that Sullivan put right above this text.

    Its the GDP growth rate from 2000-2012. There's an unmistakably ginormous trough occurring immediately prior to Bush's $1.4 T deficit year. Obama's $1.3 T deficit year is preceded by more-or-less normal 2-3% GDP growth.

    Finally, the hathos: what the deficit doves preach endlessly is that stimulus = good because a jump-started economy will lead to much greater revenues, which will magically bring down the deficit. Once more to you, OMB:

    Receipts dropped by a staggering 17% in FY 2009, not surprising given the huge drop in GDP. GDP has come back since then, and so have receipts, rising 5% a year to get to 2012. Sounds not bad, right? Sure, you're coming off perhaps the biggest receipt-trough of our lifetimes, which should be a huge help to revenue growth, but 5% is not bad right?

    Don't tell the deficit doves: but, again, from the OMB, here's the 100-year average annual growth in receipts (1901-2008): 8%. That's right, coming off the worst revenue trough in memory, and returning to more or less normal growth, still trails historical annual revenue growth trends by 300 basis points.

    Sorry Keynesian stimulus believers - the data don't lie. It doesn't support your world view.

    1. CSH:
      The recovery is terrible, no argument there. (Though, annual rates of growth in either deficit or GDP might not be the best measures, in that when the economy has contracted violently, moderate growth coming out of that is NOT a good growth rate)

      But, to return to the original question, does a deficit at the levels we've been running for the last 5 years or so lead to hyperinflation? The logic for it doing so is: deficit spending is akin to printing money. More money makes money less valuable. But what a lot of us liberals are saying is: where's that inflation? If the Keynesian stimulus theory can be wrong, so can these theories of hyperinflation.

    2. I'm afraid I can't even make sense of this. Are you trying to blame Obama for a lack of growth despite stimulus measures, or blame him for deficits because we've had normal growth?

      In case anyone cares, revenues are far below their pre-recession levels, equal to roughly what they were in the late 90s, in spite of a significantly larger population and economy:

      If revenue had stuck to its pre-recession trajectory, even ignoring the Bush tax cuts, the deficit would be about half what it is now. Of course it hasn't because the recession undid several years worth of growth that we haven't gotten back, plus we've had more tax cuts.

      As for the argument behind Keynesian stimulus, I don't recall anyone claiming that it instantly increases revenues in the bizarro way that conservatives believe that tax cuts increase revenues. In the sort-term, you run deficits. The idea is that the long-term impact on debt is much less than it would otherwise be, because you get back to full capacity faster. The alternative is European-style austerity, and we've seen how well that's worked out.

    3. Thanks for the comments. In fairness of full disclosure, while the 3-year average revenue growth from 2009-2012 is an anemic 5%, the measure has been increasing sequentially. Not up to the long-term average, but increasing. My sense is that three years is a long time to wait for stimulus-related revenues, but what do I know.

      A bigger concern, for me, is that this debate separates into the Krugman camp v. some weird Tea Partier dressed in revolutionary garb. Krugman might be wrong to the extent that the current global downturn is not due to lack of demand (classic Keynes), but rather glut of supply.

      To illustrate the glut of supply case, look at Japan post-80s boom. Nikkei index hit 40,000 in the late 80s, investments were made accordingly, and that index is currently at 8500. You can stimulate in such a situation all you want, lord knows Japan has, but when you get that far ahead of your skis, things need to get unwound.

      I suspect we're more like Japan than Krugman thinks. But who makes that argument?

    4. CSH, three things:

      1) Krugman talks about Japan all the time. He is particularly critical of Ben Bernanke, who was a recognized expert on the Japan situation before becoming Fed director, but who hasn't been following his own past prescriptions. Krugman thinks our situation does indeed resemble Japan's in terms of similar policy mistakes.

      2) The stimulus spending, IIRC, was spread over two years that would have been (mostly) fiscal 2010 and 2011. So it wasn't a "big bang" that all happened three years ago. Also, the Krugmanite position -- not just retrospectively, but at the time (I can vouch for this, I was reading him then) -- is that the stimulus was too small, too heavy on tax cuts as vs. spending, and largely offset by drastic cuts in spending at the state and local levels. Even so, it has sustained the weak recovery that one would expect from a real but too-small effort, and has kept the US from going the way of the UK, which is now in a double-dip.

      3) Do you disagree with anything Sullivan reports here?

  8. "The alternative is European-style austerity, and we've seen how well that's worked out."

    How are you defining austerity? There seems to be a lot of disagreement on this, but my understanding of the liberal definition is:

    ***Govt boosted AD is guaranteed to return us to low unemployment and debt doesn't matter in the short term... regardless of size. So if we're not at full employment then the feds need to spend more. Literally. Any amount of spending is austerity spending unless unemployment is quickly dropping.

    How wrong am I?

    1. Oh, come on.

      In reaction to increasing deficits as the economy crashed in 2008-2009, many European governments (the UK being a prime example) chose to follow a path where they addressed deficits by cutting spending.

      Anon's point is that, if you look at Europe now, it seems kinda clear that that policy did not work. Now, one could make the argument that Keynesian stimulus didn't work by pointing at the 2009 stimulus in the US, too. It's perfectly possible that neither side has figured out how to manage national economies in a globalized world. But to take that and paint a broad, sarcastic, and frankly, condescending attack on all liberals is, well, it ain't my definition of fair sport.

    2. Matt Jarvis,

      I'm being serious. If the central government's failure to account for loss of AD doesn't count as austerity, then what do liberals mean when they use the word? Is it spending less than the year before the crash, spending less than makes up for shortfalls of local governments, not increasing at the rate of growth in spending prior to the crash? These are just a few of the definitions liberals have proferred.

      I just want to know what conditions are necessary before liberals will say "economic conditions stink and we need to reduce government spending."

    3. backyard, in the usage of economists like Krugman, DeLong and its other critics, austerity is a philosophy: It's the view that reducing public deficits and debt, and avoiding inflation by keeping the money supply tight, is the key to economic recovery and should take priority over other concerns like keeping people in jobs, easing credit and reducing private debt to encourage consumer spending, and closing the output gap, i.e. the difference between what the economy could be producing and what it currently is. Underlying these "austerian" policies is the belief that the basic problem in a bad economy is lack of business confidence and the potential for bond markets to make it difficult for governments to borrow (even if they're not currently doing that). Confidence -- and therefore increased business investment -- is brought about, say the austerians, by balancing budgets, not by putting money in consumers' hands so they show up wanting to buy things and thus give businesses a reason to invest.

      So, regardless of particular dollar amounts, a government or central bank could be said to be pursuing austerity as long as it's basing policies on the austerian philosophy, and is not giving priority to keeping people in work, keeping money in consumers' hands, and closing the output gap. But, as with any philosophy, it's possible for any given application to be more moderate / mixed or more radical. The US, where government power is divided, has pursued Keynesian policies, kind of, but in a somewhat limited and half-hearted way because of political opposition to them and because of the ingrained prejudices of central bankers, who prefer tight money and don't worry enough about high unemployment. In that sense, there's been an admixture of austerian thinking. Meanwhile, the UK -- which has a system of government that puts one party or coalition in complete control at a time -- has tried a more thoroughgoing program of austerity (a specific program of budget-cutting and -balancing) with little admixture from Keynesian ideas. The EU, by and large, has also been doing this. The "liberal" view, as you call it, is that austerity is the wrong approach, it doesn't work, and none of these entities should be pursuing it, but at least the US, thanks to the Democratic Party, hasn't gone quite as wild for it and is therefore destroying itself somewhat less slowly.

    4. Correction: somewhat MORE slowly.

  9. Jeff

    "So, regardless of particular dollar amounts, a government or central bank could be said to be pursuing austerity as long as it's basing policies on the austerian philosophy, and is not giving priority to keeping people in work"

    Your explanation assumes that there is a tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. We know that there are conditions where this is false. As far as I can tell, your comment also amounts to:
    "people vs the powerful"
    "I can't define it in any way that an opponent can tear into"
    "just do whatever Krugman and DeLong say at this moment because the opposite is bad"
    "1946 didn't happen"

    Are there ANY conditions under which liberals say "unemployment is too high and we should reduce government sending."

    1. There obviously is, in many cases, a tradeoff between unemployment and inflation. Wages are more likely to rise, fueling inflation, when unemployment is low. Also, if more people are working and therefore have money to spend, they will tend to bid up the prices of goods and services. I mean, that's pretty easy even for a non-economist like myself to understand.

      In the present crisis, it appeared for a while that we were in danger of disinflation leading to deflation, which can destroy jobs -- the downward spiral you get in depressions. In other words, the opposite of inflation tends to accompany dramatically rising unemployment.

      I don't know all the situations that economists have studied, but the big lessons of the Great Depression, and of recessions generally, is that reducing government spending is not the solution to high unemployment. More money circulating means more people working, and government spending is, among other things, a mechanism for keeping money circulating. Again, this all seems pretty obvious.

    2. Jeff,

      It sounds as if you only listen to liberal economists. My guess is that you can't properly describe the most basic ideas of libertarian and conservative economists (like Broken Windows Fallacy or Bootleggers and Baptists.) I don't know why you choose to avoid the counterarguments.

      Based on your non-answer, I assume that you're at least one liberal who can never imagine reducing gov spending during high unemployment.

    3. backyard, you call an explanation that points to specific mechanisms a "non-answer," then answer with nothing but a couple of name-checks. So, can I assume that you're at least one right-winger who can never imagine increasing government spending during high unemployment? Because you have not even tried to explain how reducing it could possibly help.

    4. Jeff,

      I can see increasing fed spending if there's reason to believe that local government or charities aren't able to pick up the slack for hungry people. Considering that I can eat on $3 a day without trouble, this is an unlikely scenario. I think we should increase federal spending right now to prepare for a Carrington Event, which only has collective solutions, could destroy civilization, and can be prepared for.

      This is one of several examples where true "austerity" preceded a rebound:

    5. backyard, thanks for alerting me to the minor industry that has developed on the right to re-explain the postwar boom in terms of Austrian economics. In these difficult times, I'm always happy to see any enterprise that is experiencing growth. :)

      I expect this question can and will have to be argued out among economists, so you and I are not going to settle it. I will say this, though. In addition to pent-up consumer demand, low interest rates, and continuing military mobilization (the US has been on a war footing continuously since 1941), the postwar years included the following:

      > massive US government assistance to foreign countries to help them develop economically (thus making them markets for US exports);

      > federal assistance for homebuying through New Deal programs like the FHA;

      > new federal aid to education, including the GI Bill;

      > continuing public-works projects on a national scale, eventually including the interstate highway system;

      > continuing federal R&D spending, leading to the development of transistors, electronic computing, silicon chips, etc.; and

      > strong unions protected by federal labor laws.

      Give me all that again, and you can call it "austerity" or whatever else you'd like. I'll take it.

    6. Jeff,

      "Between FY 1945 and FY 1947, federal government spending was cut by 61 percent. This was a 27-percentage-point drop from 41.9 percent of GDP to 14.7 percent of GDP."

      You're wasting our time by pointing to specific little programs when it's the magnitude of spending that's most relevant. No Keynesian would disagree. That's why Keynes told so many stories about wealth-generating pyramids or burying jars of dollar bills in mine shafts to then print money to pay unemployed people to dig them up. It's what DeLong has said ad nauseum: "the government's money, when spent, is as good as anybody's." Boost AD by any means!

      The conservative case for "austerity" is that the way to create wealth is to reduce the share of spending by government because markets work better at coordinating the use of scarce resources... even in bad times.

      Are you telling me that if that if in two years a government drops spending from 61% of GDP to 15% with a concomitant giant drop in AD while firing half its workers that it isn't "austerity?"

    7. It might well count as "austerity" to scale back massive stimulus that has already worked and to return to normal spending levels in a growing economy. But I don't think many liberal economists would criticize it at that point. Unfortunately, such a scenario is not the one we're in and not what's currently being discussed. Keynesian policies are not (as you seem to imagine) premised on a belief that government normally coordinates resources better than markets. They're about, first, how best to respond temporarily to market failures. The goal of such policies is to get market forces working again. Longer term, Keynesians also advocate government spending to do things that markets won't do. But that basic principle didn't arise with Keynes; in the US, it goes back at least to Alexander Hamilton.

      "Austerity" is a term current in political debates at the moment because there's recently been a big market failure -- a financial crisis followed by a near-depression -- and there are policymakers who misguidedly think that the right response to that particular circumstance is to reduce government spending. We're not at the end of WW II here, we're in a situation much more like the one that preceded WW II. The critics of austerity aren't criticizing (some of) our current leaders for acting like Harry Truman, they're criticizing them for acting like Herbert Hoover. Once we're in a robust recovery, nobody to the right of the Communist Party is going to advocate World War II levels of government spending, just as no one was advocating that during the '90s boom. Indeed, the Clinton Administration, in good Keynesian fashion, used that boom to balance the federal budget.

    8. Jeff,

      "It might well count as "austerity" to scale back massive stimulus that has already worked and to return to normal spending levels in a growing economy."

      How can you accuse people of being austerians if you're unsure whether a 60% drop in government spending at a given point counts as austerity? Shouldn't you have a clear idea of what the word means before you use it?

      "Once we're in a robust recovery, nobody to the right of the Communist Party is going to advocate World War II levels of government spending"

      If the Treasury borrows a lot more money and the Fed monetizes debt so that federal spending can reach WWII levels (say 40% of GDP instead of 25%) would you then agree that we'd be spending enough to lower unemployment at a non-austerian rate?

    9. backyard, I see you're uncomfortable with the idea that words have comparative and contextual rather than absolute meanings. Unfortunately, that's how it is. Whether a word like "austere" applies or not depends on the context. Warren Buffett is an American billionaire, so the fact that he lives in a three-bedroom house counts for most commentators as an "austere lifestyle." But if he were a Buddhist monk, the same three-bedroom house might well be described as lavish and opulent -- not austere at all by the standards of Buddhist monks.

      Also, a word like "austere" is not (necessarily) an accusation. It might be, as at present, when austerity is not a good idea but somebody's pursuing it anyway. In another situation, it might be praise. (It's used in praise of Buddhist monks, for instance.) Again, this is true of lots of words. Am I criticizing a football coach if I say he's being "cautious"? Depends on the game situation and whether I'm suggesting that caution is well- or ill-advised. If bold action is called for, then "cautious" might be a criticism; if caution is called for, then it's not.

      As to your hypothetical, I do think raising federal spending in a sluggish economy would lower unemployment. But to 40% of GDP? Who's proposing that? Any such proposal would have to be evaluated from several angles; it would probably be counterproductive in other ways. Economic policies aimed at restoring growth are like medicines -- you want to use them when as as indicated, but you'd be a fool to take 10 times the recommended dose.

    10. Jeff,

      "I see you're uncomfortable with the idea that words have comparative and contextual rather than absolute meanings. Unfortunately, that's how it is. Whether a word like "austere" applies or not depends on the context."

      Now that you've gone full meta, I'll just say what I've learned: use of the word "austerity" indicates that the speaker wants the central government to spend more money.

    11. .....use of the word "austerity" indicates that the speaker wants the central government to spend more money.

      Right, except when it's used by those who want the central government to spend less:


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