Friday, August 13, 2010

Krugman Nudges Bernanke

Paul Krugman keeps nudging Ben Bernanke by reminding him of his own, past statements.
What could the Fed be doing? Back when, Mr. Bernanke suggested, among other things, that the Bank of Japan could get traction by buying large quantities of “nonstandard” assets — that is, assets other than the short-term government debt central banks normally hold. The Fed actually put that idea into practice during the most acute phase of the financial crisis, acquiring, in particular, large amounts of mortgage-backed securities. However, it stopped those purchases in March.

Since then, the economic news has grown steadily worse. And earlier this week, the Fed changed course — but barely. It now says that it will reinvest the proceeds from maturing securities in long-term government bonds. That’s a trivial change, basically the least the Fed could get away with without facing a firestorm of criticism — and far short of the major asset-purchase program the Fed should be undertaking.

Back in 2000, Mr. Bernanke also suggested that the Bank of Japan could move expectations by making announcements about its future policies. In particular, he argued that it could make private-sector borrowing more attractive by announcing that it would keep interest rates low until deflation had given way to 3 percent or 4 percent inflation — an idea originally suggested by yours truly. Since we are, if anything, in worse shape now than Japan was in 2000, an inflation target of at least 3 percent would very much be in America’s interest. But as chairman of the Fed, Mr. Bernanke has explicitly rejected any such move.

What’s going on here? Has Mr. Bernanke been intellectually assimilated by the Fed Borg? I prefer to believe that he’s being political, unwilling to engage in open confrontation with other Fed officials — especially those regional Fed presidents who fear inflation, even with deflation the clear and present danger, and are evidently unmoved by the plight of the unemployed.

I know Krugman get's labeled as shrill but the guy has been spot on for over a year and a half now. We have to hope that at some point one of his columns will spark somebody, anybody to act before deflation takes hold and we really are screwed.

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