So Where Are the High Interest Rates?

From “Money For Nothing,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits — deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis.

“But a funny thing happened on the way to the predicted fiscal crisis:  instead of soaring, U. S. borrowing costs have fallen to their lowest level in the nation’s history.  And it’s not just America.  At this point, every advanced country that borrows in its own currency is able to borrow very cheaply.

“The failure of deficits to produce the predicted rise in  interest rates is telling us something important about the nature of our economic troubles (and the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the self-appointed guardians of our fiscal virtue).
“Oh, and pay no attention to the warnings any day now we’ll turn into Greece, Greece I tell you.  Countries like Greece, and for that matter Spain, are suffering from their ill-advised decision to give up their own currencies for the euro, which has left them vulnerable in a way that America just isn’t.

“So what is going on?  The main answer is that this is what happens when you have a ‘deleveraging shock,’ in which everyone is trying to pay down debt at the same time.

“But it’s simply crazy to be laying off schoolteachers and canceling infrastructure projects at a time when investors are offering zero- or negative-interest financing.

“You don’t even have to make a Keynesian argument about jobs to see that.  All you have to do is note that when money is cheap, that’s a good time to invest.

“That said, you should be a Keynesian, too.  The experience of the past few years — above all, the spectacular failure of austerity policies in Europe — has been dramatic demonstration of Keynes’s basic point:  slashing spending in a depressed economy depresses that economy further.”

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