Austerity doesn’t work, according to an article in today’s New York Times. The article focuses on the fact that the middle class in the US is falling behind its peers in other developed countries.
What is particularly interesting about the article is buried in the graph reproduced here. The nations – like the US, Britain, and Greece – where harsh austerity measures were introduced following the financial crash of 2008 all demonstrate a sharp downturn in the economic status of their middle classes, while those that did not implement such measures have continuously rising curves of middle class affluence.
The central assumptions behind the article are that growth is essential to maintaining middle class status. Seen from an environmental angle, the economic downturn has actually been a beneficial phenomenon since it has put the brakes on the developed world’s headlong expansion. But this is not much of a salve to the situation of struggling people in places like the US. And elites have continued to expand their grossly large incomes by investing in developing countries, meaning that carbon emissions have continued their inexorable, suicidal rise.
We clearly need an alternative economic system, one that benefits average people while not wrecking the planet’s ecosystems.