Gideon Rachman of the FT has an excellent column on the promise of François Hollande to stop the 'madness' of austerity. Rachman delivers the bad news. There isn't really any alternative:
Mr Hollande says that he will replace austerity with growth. Why didn’t anybody think of that before? Unfortunately, a vacuous slogan is underpinned by ineffectual proposals. Mr Hollande’s programme stresses small, badly-targeted boosts to public spending, while virtually ignoring the structural reforms that are the only route to sustainable growth.
Spending on infrastructure – “shovel-ready” projects, as President Barack Obama has called them – is, of course, a standard Keynesian solution for an economy that is caught in a downward recessionary spiral. Under normal circumstances, such spending might be a great idea.
In Europe, however, there are plenty of reasons to be sceptical. If building great roads and trains were the route to lasting prosperity, Greece and Spain would be booming. The past 30 years have seen a huge splurge in infrastructure spending, often funded by the EU. The Athens metro is excellent. The AVE fast-trains in Spain are a marvel. But this kind of spending has done very little to change the fundamental problems that now plague both Greece and Spain – in particular, youth unemployment.
Read the whole thing. If you don't have an FT sub you can get to the piece via Google.
As Rachman points out, when it gets down to it, Hollande isn't really proposing an alternative anyway. Like Miliband and Balls, he's proposing a very slightly lower rate of cuts. The awful and ultimately apolitical truth is that we're all out of funds. Spending can't be the answer, and it's frivolous to pretend it can. The politicians need to come up with other ideas, and fast. Unemployment is exerting its quiet violence on millions of people every day.