AUSTERITY’S GRIP: When blue-chip economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff published a 2010 paper making the case for austerity, the report was seized upon by conservative economists, politicians like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and deficit hawks Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles and Pete Peterson. The authors argued that when the ratio of public debt to GDP exceeds 90 per- cent, economic growth falls dramatically. With the United States and European nations nearing or exceeding that number, government efforts to stimulate the economy through traditional deficit-financed jobs programs would thus lead to slower growth, higher unemployment and worse debt.
But austerity’s theoretical underpinnings have been exposed as flimflam, constructed out of egregious spreadsheet error and goofy logic. Thomas Herndon, a graduate student in economics at the University of Massachusetts, recently discovered that Reinhart and Rogoff omitted basic and crucial data. A working paper by Herndon and his professors Michael Ash and Robert Pollin, a longtime contributor to The Nation, shows that average rates of growth for countries with 90 percent public-debt-to-GDP ratios between 2000 and 2009 were in fact comparable to—or higher than—those for countries with debt ratios from 30 to 90 percent.
Reinhart and Rogoff admitted their errors but claimed, incorrectly, that it remains true that high public debt levels are correlated with slower growth. In fact, as sensible economists observed when their study first came out, correlation is not causation. Government deficits and public debt rose as a result of the financial crisis, not as a cause. The International Monetary Fund, once a bastion of austerity economics, has admitted its errors, warning that austerity is sabotaging recovery. Will the Fix the Debt austerity claque do the same?
Don’t count on it. When asked about the discredited paper, Bowles maintained that he relies on “common sense and my own personal experience”—a dubious expertise given his failure, as a director of Morgan Stanley, to foresee the housing bubble and bust that devastated the economy.
We will be freed of austerity’s grip only when those in power return to fact-based politics and hear much more from the unemployed and the immiserated, and much less from bankers and their favored economists. KATRINA vanden HEUVEL
SACK COACH SAC! Perhaps the most disturbing feature of the Steubenville High School rape trial involving members of the school’s storied football team wasn’t the crime itself so much as the complicity of those close to it. Symbolic of this unholy marriage of jock culture and rape culture was the revered Big Red football coach Reno Saccoccia, who didn’t seem to care that his players could have treated a 16-year-old girl this way. Many believed that he would, at the very least, lose his job for apparently failing to report the sexual assault. Instead, on April 19, “Coach Sac” was granted a two-year contract extension by the Steubenville school board. The decision was made even as a grand jury prepares to assess whether he and others obstructed justice in the case.
Whatever the grand jury concludes, the question of whether Saccoccia should keep his job is not a difficult one to answer. Not when there are text messages sent by now-convicted quarterback Trent Mays reading: “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen…. Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried.” Not when, after the boys were arrested and charged, Saccoccia kept them on the team for eight more games. Not when Saccoccia went nose to nose with a woman reporter looking into the rape case and said, “You’re gonna get yours.” The demand for accountability in Steubenville will not begin and end inside the school district: more than 134,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org demanding that Saccoccia be fired. Until then, the spotlight will only get hotter. DAVE ZIRIN
PROTESTING DRONE DEATHS: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul may have captured national headlines when he filibustered the nomination of kill list architect John Brennan as CIA director, but outside Washington, on-the-ground resistance to America’s new dirty wars continues.
On April 18, five peace activists were convicted of trespassing for blocking the entrance to the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base outside Syracuse, New York, part of a wave of protests organized by Upstate Drone Action. Since 2009, when the Air National Guard began operating MQ-9 Reaper drones from Hancock, frequent rallies have led to more than 120 arrests, often after activists have attempted to deliver an “indictment” to the base commander. “Extra judicial killings…are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force to commit murder in violation of U.S. and International Law,” it reads. “By giving material support to the drone program, you as individuals are violating the Constitution, dishonoring your oath, and committing war crimes.”
Military officers have refused to accept the letter, and one even filed orders of protection against seventeen nonviolent protesters. Yet the movement is undeterred. A three-day conference on drones in Syracuse will culminate in another demonstration on April 28.
At trial, the defendants read statements explaining their actions. Recounting the story of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old killed by a drone strike in Pakistan days after volunteering to document the devastation caused in his village by the attacks, Jim Clune declared, “The killing of the innocent must never be business as usual, the normal course of events, but should be seen as what it is. A catastrophe. An outrage.” ANDREW BARD EPSTEIN
ACCESS DENIED: On April 16, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Center for Constitutional Rights et al. v. United States & Lind, Chief Judge, the latest roadblock in a lawsuit seeking access to documents pertaining to the court-martial of Bradley Manning. The proceedings, in a military courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, have been virtually invisible to the public, and petitioners are fighting for transparency and freedom of the press. Among them are The Nation and Jeremy Scahill, along with Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, as well as Kevin Gosztola, co-author of Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning, and Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning. For further updates, visit ccrjustice.org. THE EDITORS