Where does austerity fit in to this story? Mostly it doesn’t. Shaving an extra couple of points off the structural deficit will make very little difference to long-run solvency, nor will it do much to accelerate the pace of internal devaluation. It will, however, depress employment even further and inflict a lot of direct suffering too through cuts in social programs.
Why do it, then? Partly it’s because Europe is still operating on the false theory that this is essentially a fiscal issue; partly it’s to assuage the Germans, who remain convinced that those lazy Southern Europeans are getting away with something. In effect, the policy is to inflict pain for the sake of inflicting pain.
Which brings us to the question: can this go on? When do the people of the afflicted economies say that they can bear no more?
The news from Spain, with vast protests and talk of secession, suggests that this moment may be approaching fast. Also, while Greece has long since ceased to be the epicenter, things seem to be breaking down there too.
I really do think Draghi has done very well. But he can’t make internal devaluation work on his own, and he can’t save Europe if its leaders continue to think that gratuitous infliction of pain is sound policy.
Paul Krugman, aqui, sublinhados meus