The New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote on May 8:
“We structuralists do not believe that the level of government spending is the main factor in determining how fast an economy grows. If that were true, then Greece, Britain and France would have the best economies on earth. (The so-called European austerity is partly mythical.) We believe that the creativity, skill and productivity of the work force matter most, and the openness of the system they inhabit. Running up huge deficits without fixing the underlying structure will not restore growth.”
Two days later, on May 10, David Brooks’ fellow-columnist, the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times:
“…So what’s with the obsessive push to declare our problems ‘structural’? And, yes, I mean obsessive. Economists have been debating this issue for several years, and the structuralists won’t take no for an answer, no matter how much contrary evidence is presented.
“The answer, I’d suggest, lies in the way claims that our problems are deep and structural offer an excuse for not acting, for doing nothing to alleviate the plight of the unemployed.
“Of course, structuralists say they are not making excuses. They say that their real point is that we should focus not on quick fixes but on the long run – although it’s usually far from clear what, exactly, the long-run policy is supposed to be, other than the fact that it involves inflicting pain on workers and the poor.
“Anyway, John Maynard Keynes had these peoples’ number more than 80 years ago. ‘But this long run,’ he wrote, ‘is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the sea is flat again.’
“I would only add that inventing reasons not to do anything about current unemployment isn’t just cruel and wasteful, it’s bad long-run policy, too. For there is growing evidence that the corrosive effects of high unemployment will cast a shadow over the economy for many years to come. Every time some self-important politician or pundit starts going on about how deficits are a burden on the next generation, remember that the biggest problem facing young Americans today isn’t the future burden of debt – a burden, by the way, that premature spending cuts probably make worse, not better. It is, rather, the lack of jobs, which is preventing many graduates from getting started on their working lives.
“So all this talk about structural unemployment isn’t about facing up to our real problems; it’s about avoiding them, and taking the easy, useless way out. And it’s time for it to stop.”