Austerity policies meant to turn around the European economy and reduce the debts and deficits of countries like Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Greece continue to have the opposite effect. The continent’s economy shrank for the second consecutive quarter in the three months leading up to September, officially pushing the European economy back into recession. The 0.1 percent contraction marked the fourth consecutive quarter that the European economy either shrank or experienced no growth.
Remember all that guff that Mitt Romney talked about the miserable "Obama Economy"? This is the sort of economic austerity that he proposed as a cure.
Yeah, sure, we need to get the deficit under control. Some time or another. But the real threat at the moment is European-style economic stagnation. Robert Reich has got it right:
It all boils down to timing and sequencing: first, we get the economy back on track, and then we tackle the budget deficit.
This is why any “grand bargain” to avert the fiscal cliff should contain a starting trigger that begins serious spending cuts and tax increases only when the economy is strong enough. I’d make that trigger two consecutive quarters of 6 percent unemployment and 3 percent economic growth.
Yeah, but that wouldn't inflict any pain, shared or otherwise. And pain infliction is a sign of being SERIOUS. So we'll do something else.