Following on from the Mainly Macro article I reblogged earlier, it seems David Smith of The Times took offence at Simon Wren-Lewis for pointing out that austerity was slowed around 2012, and this is what prompted the economic upturn.

Mr Smith wants people to think economists like Professor Wren-Lewis are saying austerity was stopped altogether, in order to discount their claims. He’s wrong. Here’s (part of) why:

[David Smith] provides two quotes from Paul Krugman and two from myself where we say austerity in 2012 was ‘put on hold’, that the government ‘essentially stopped tightening fiscal policy before the upturn’, or that austerity was ‘temporarily abandoned’. This is quite different from claim Z, involving complete abandonment. So they are hardly support for his straw man.

It is also pretty clear David knows this. He writes “I am not sure when the suspension or (temporary) abandonment of austerity Simon refers to is supposed to have come to an end.” That is cover to translate what I wrote into claim Z. But just a few sentences down from the first of his quotes from me I write: “followed by a projected return to austerity from 2014 onwards”. Whoops.

If all this seems a bit silly to you (as it does to me), you need to understand the bigger picture. Why is David (alongside others) so keen to argue that the government stuck to its consolidation plan, when the data clearly suggest otherwise? Well I think I know why the government wants to pretend that there was no change of plan in 2012.

Because the moment you admit that the pace of deficit reduction was slowed (by action or inaction), people will ask why, and the obvious answer was that the original plans were hurting the economy and delaying the recovery.

Most economists and the OBR know this, but the government has tried very hard to make sure that knowledge is not disseminated more widely.

Source: mainly macro: David Smith’s gotcha quotes