Paul Krugman comments that "the austerity death spiral in Europe" should have taught us something:
When the private sector is frantically trying to pay down debt, the public sector should do the opposite, spending when the private sector can't or won't. By all means, let's balance our budget once the economy has recovered -- but not now. The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.
He notes that "the austerity drive in Britain isn't really about debt and deficits at all; it's about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs:"
And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America.
In fairness to Britain's conservatives, they aren't quite as crude as their American counterparts. They don't rail against the evils of deficits in one breath, then demand huge tax cuts for the wealthy in the next (although the Cameron government has, in fact, significantly cut the top tax rate). And, in general, they seem less determined than America's right to aid the rich and punish the poor. Still, the direction of policy is the same -- and so is the fundamental insincerity of the calls for austerity.
The big question here is whether the evident failure of austerity to produce an economic recovery will lead to a "Plan B." Maybe. But my guess is that even if such a plan is announced, it won't amount to much. For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. And it still is.