The wrong medicine

Douglas Porter quibbles with the Prime Minister’s prescription for economic woe.

“We could be making some of the same mistakes. Certainly, there are echoes of 1937,” agreed Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister formed an unusual alliance of debt hawks, coming down firmly on the side of stricter austerity as the way out of the crisis – at least in Europe … 

Mr. Porter said Mr. Harper’s call for global austerity is “precisely the wrong medicine at this time.” Government bond yields in Canada, and in most other countries, have sunk to multi-year lows in recent days. That’s a sign that financial markets are stressed about economic growth prospects, not government deficits or inflation, according to Mr. Porter. “Governments shouldn’t be aggressively cutting spending when the economy is gasping for air,” he said. “That’s certainly the wrong prescription.”