There has been a considerable effort to tout the merits of fiscal austerity as a route to restoring growth. This argument has been put forward in direct opposition to arguments for increased stimulus for boosting the economy. While there may be a case that lower deficits can foster growth under some circumstances, the evidence presented in the Broadbent and Daly paper does not suggest that a movement toward lower deficits in the current economic situation in the United States would be expansionary.
Very few of the countries in which fiscal austerity was associated with more rapid growth adopted austerity at a time when the economy was far below its potential level of output. In none of the cases were they are as far below as the United States is today. In all of the cases where there was a substantial output gap, the country was far more engaged in international trade than the United States. Trade provided a source of demand that cannot have anywhere near as large an impact in the United States at present.
Finally, all the countries that successfully used austerity to boost growth had much higher interest rates than the United States does at present. This meant that there was substantial room for rates to decline following the imposition of austerity.
The differences between the United States in 2010 and the countries that have successfully gone the route of fiscal austerity to boost growth are large and are very central to the adjustment process. In short, in the current economic environment, the circumstances do not exist for fiscal austerity in the United States to lead to more rapid growth. While a quick return to normal levels of unemployment may not be important to those who are primarily dependent on profits or run large corporations, for most of the country, it is essential to their well-being.