Effects of Austerity: Expenditure- and Tax-based Approaches. Alberto Alesina, Spring 2019, Paper, “Sometimes governments need to reduce their budget deficits aggressively. These policies are labeled “austerity.” Almost always austerity is needed because excessive debt has been accumulated, as a result of policy mistakes and political distortions (Alesina and Passalacqua 2016; Yared, in this issue). The austerity policies embraced by several European countries starting in 2010 have generated an extraordinarily harsh policy debate. One side has argued that austerity is (almost) always a bad idea. From this perspective, even European countries that were experiencing serious difficulties in financial markets—either by being totally cut off from borrowing like Greece, or by paying high risk premia like Portugal, Spain, Ireland, and Italy—should have continued to stimulate their economies with high levels of government spending. Austerity, the argument continues, was self-defeating because the recessions it induced, or extended, only increased government debt as a ratio of GDP. Blanchard and Leigh (2014) argued that this round of austerity was particularly costly: in other words, fiscal multipliers were especially high. The other side argued that postponing austerity would have caused Effects.Link