October 12, 2009

WHICH IS HOW THEY CAUSED THE RECESSION IN THE FIRST PLACE:

Misguided Monetary Mentalities (PAUL KRUGMAN, 10/12/09, NY Times)

In recent weeks there have been a number of statements from Fed officials, mainly but not only presidents of regional Federal Reserve banks, calling for an early return to tighter money, including higher interest rates. Now, people in the Federal Reserve system are normally extremely circumspect when making statements about future monetary policy, so as not to step on the efforts of the Fed’s Open Market Committee, which actually sets those rates, to shape expectations. So it’s extraordinary to see all these officials suddenly breaking the implicit rules, in effect lecturing the Open Market Committee about what it should do.

What’s even more extraordinary, however, is the idea that raising rates would make sense any time soon. After all, the unemployment rate is a horrifying 9.8 percent and still rising, while inflation is running well below the Fed’s long-term target. This suggests that the Fed should be in no hurry to tighten — in fact, standard policy rules of thumb suggest that interest rates should be left on hold for the next two years or more, or until the unemployment rate has fallen to around 7 percent.

Yet some Fed officials want to pull the trigger on rates much sooner. To avoid a “Great Inflation,” says Charles Plosser of the Philadelphia Fed, “we will need to act well before unemployment rates and other measures of resource utilization have returned to acceptable levels.” Jeffrey Lacker of the Richmond Fed says that rates may need to rise even if “the unemployment rate hasn’t started falling yet.”

I don’t know what analysis lies behind these itchy trigger fingers. But it probably isn’t about analysis, anyway — it’s about mentality, the sense that central banks are supposed to act tough, not provide easy credit.

And it’s crucial that we don’t let this mentality guide policy.


The Fed exists to fight inflation and protect the value of bankers' loans--as every bureaucracy serves those it is supposed to supervise, not the taxpayer--but it wages the battle whether inflation exists or not, which is disastrous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 12, 2009 5:53 AM
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