Once again austerity proponents tell it like it isn’t.

By Marty Hart-Landsberg, Reports From The Economic Front

There appears to be growing consensus among economists and policy makers that inflation is now the main threat to the US economy and the Federal Reserve Board needs to start ratcheting up interest rates to slow down economic activity.  While these so-called inflation-hawks are quick to highlight the cost of higher prices, they rarely, if ever, mention the costs associated with the higher interest rate policy they recommend, costs that include higher unemployment and lower wages for working people.

man inflating balloon with dollar sign on it

The call for tightening monetary policy is often buttressed by claims that labor markets have now tightened to such an extent that continued expansion could set off a wage-price spiral.  However, the rapid decline in the unemployment rate to historically low levels, a development often cited in support of this call for austerity, is far from the best indicator of labor market conditions.  In fact, even leaving aside issues of job quality, the US employment situation, as we see below, remains problematic.  In short: the US economy continues to operate in ways that fall far short of what workers need.

A turn to austerity to fight inflation is not what we need.  Neither is a continuation of policies that simply continue the growth of our currently structured economy.  Instead, we need new policies that can transform our economy with the aim of employing more people, working significantly shorter workweeks under conditions that are humane and fulfilling, for a living wage, producing and distributing the goods and services required to meet majority needs in socially and environmentally sustainable ways.

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