Ever since two Harvard economists produced a study claiming that serious economic problems resulted when a country’s debt rose above 90% of GDP, conservative policy makers have used the results to justify austerity programs that have seriously harmed the economies of those countries that implemented the policy. The rational economic community puzzled over the research, since there was no basis for the results and since the logic was overwhelming that R and R had their causality reversed.
High debt does not produce a decline in economic growth; a decline in economic growth produces high debt. And austerity does not cure economic problems from a large recession where monetary policy is ineffective, it exacerbates them.
So it was no surprise that upon closer examination the R and R study has been found to be seriously flawed, including an Excel coding error. And to add insult to injury, the flaws were found out by a group headed by a graduate student, Thomas Herndon. But it is a surprise that the study has become the subject of derision on Comedy Central.
And now all of this has broken through to the mainstream with last night's Colbert Report, where Thomas Herndon was the guest.
Colbert had two segments devoted to making the austerians look like total laughingstocks.
One was the actual interview with Herndon. The other came as part of a news roundup, where he mocked Paul Ryan and "Rogaine and Braveheart."
It's one of those cultural moments where you can see the losing side made to look like fools in mass media.
Of course, the R and R paper only facilitated failed austerity policy, those policies would have been adopted for the most part anyway because those who believe in that policy did so on faith, which is a much stronger motivation than logic, objectivity or compassion.
Still it is nice to see this thing playing out as it should, ridicule and derision where it is deserved.