To grow again, attack inequality
Republicans blame President Obama for the economy’s slow recovery. They note, correctly, that recovery from previous recessions was much quicker. But that’s like comparing recovery from a mild cold with that from severe pneumonia: No one would blame the doctor if the latter took a long time.
A careful diagnosis shows that we can restore our country to shared prosperity. But it won’t happen on its own, and it won’t happen if we pursue the failed policies of austerity.
Postwar recessions have been of two varieties. In some, the private sector accumulates too many inventories, and the economy slows down until they’re worked off. Others are induced by the Fed, which, worried about inflation, sometimes steps on the brake too hard. This is what happened in our severest (until now) downturn, under President Reagan. For this, there is an easy solution: the Fed takes its foot off the brake and moves it toward the accelerator.
The current downturn is of a different sort entirely. It combines a financial crisis and a housing crisis with deep underlying structural problems. The country is going through a transformation from a manufacturing economy to a service economy (just as, in the years of the Great Depression, it was moving from agriculture to manufacturing). Markets don’t manage such transformations well.