How much does austerity hurt growth?

Paul Krugman gives a rough-and-ready model based on yesterday's Eurostat figures.

Paul Krugman uses the Eurostat figures on European debts and deficits to do a rough-and-ready calculation of the effects of austerity on GDP growth in the EU:

The measure of austerity on the graph above includes budgets reduced in real, not just nominal, terms. If GDP in a country rockets up, and the budget stays flat, Krugman attributes this to austerity in just the same way as how, in the UK, GDP has stayed flat as budgets have plummeted.

From this model, he infers that cutting budgets by 1 per cent of GDP reduces GDP by around 1.25 per cent.

There is then a feedback mechanism that kicks in (if GDP is reduced, then the deficit is reduced by less), all of which means that his model predicts that £1 of austerity reduces the deficit by £0.40.

None of this will come as a surprise to the economists working at the Office for Budget Responsibility, who have been struggling with just this effect for the last two years. A large part of the perennial downwards revisions of their predictions for GDP growth, and the upward revisions of their predictions for deficit reduction, will have been due to the stagnation in the UK economy since 2010 – stagnation which, if Krugman is to be believed, is due to the austerity the UK has experienced.

By now, at least, the OBR seem to have begun to include the correct amount of pessimism in their forecasts. The office's March 2012 prediction for the deficit (or public sector net borrowing, PSNB) for 2012/13 was spot on, at £126bn. This is a long way off the rather more optimistic prediction made following the chancellor's first budget in 2010, when the deficit was expected to be £10bn less by now. Whether the new predictions will hold we shall see, but even if they do, they require for another five years of harsh austerity to pull off.

Paul Krugman. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.