Stimulus and the Future

Paul Krugman makes the important point that those who claim fiscal restraint amidst a depression is a favor to young people don’t know what they’re talking about:

Deficit hawks like to complain that today’s young people will end up having to pay higher taxes to service the debt we’re running up right now. But anyone who really cared about the prospects of young Americans would be pushing for much more job creation, since the burden of high unemployment falls disproportionately on young workers — and those who enter the work force in years of high unemployment suffer permanent career damage, never catching up with those who graduated in better times.

Even the claim that we’ll have to pay for stimulus spending now with higher taxes later is mostly wrong. Spending more on recovery will lead to a stronger economy, both now and in the future — and a stronger economy means more government revenue. Stimulus spending probably doesn’t pay for itself, but its true cost, even in a narrow fiscal sense, is only a fraction of the headline number.

The objective correlation of interests actually goes the other way around. A deflationary situation is good for retired people. They’re not impacted by the labor market situation, and flat-or-falling consumer prices make their revenue from Social Security or bonds go further. Young people, by contrast, would be much better off getting a job and paying taxes later than being unemployed out of school and suffering for it indefinitely.