We are writing from Germany, where we just finished participating in a highly enlightening conference in Berlin titled Transatlantic Agenda for Shared Prosperity. The conference was co-sponsored by the AFL-CIO from the U.S. side of the Atlantic, and the Macroeconomic Policy Institute and Friedrich Ebert Foundation from the German side.
The basic theme of the conference was how to advance viable alternatives to the austerity agenda that is presently consuming both the U.S. economy, and even more destructively, the Eurozone economies, including Germany. The full program for the one-day conference is here. Among the Eurozone economies, Germany has fared relatively well. Of course, this is all relative, since other Eurozone economies, such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, are in severe recessions.
Among the critical problems that were pushed aside by the “fiscal cliff” negotiations between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, none are more pressing – or more intertwined– than the criminally high rate of unemployment still plaguing the country and the massive debt overhang faced by underwater homeowners.
While President Obama, the House Republicans and billionaire-financed conservative pundits, economists and “think” tanks shriek about unsustainable debt and deficits, official unemployment languishes at 7.8% percent, while millions of Americans are struggling with underwater mortgages and many are facing foreclosure. We confront this perverse set of priorities despite the fact that, as Robert Pollin has repeatedly pointed out, U.S. government interest payments on public debt as a share of federal outlays is at an extremely low level of 7.7%, about half the level as when Ronald Reagan was President.
Gerald Epstein is Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Jerry and Jane D’Arista also founded SAFER: A Committee of Economists and other Experts for Stable, Accountable, Fair and Efficient Financial Reform. Jerry’s research work includes the edited volumes Beyond Inflation Targeting and Financialization and the World Economy. He is also a longtime active member of the Center for Popular Economics.
Please check back shortly for Jerry’s first post.