The final nail in the coffin of the Great Moderation is what’s known as the zero lower bound, which means that the Fed funds rate cannot be pushed below zero (since, if there were negative interest rates, people would just hoard cash). In other words, the Fed’s interest rate accelerator has a maximum setting. And, it turns out, pushing the pedal all the way to the floor isn’t always enough to keep the economy going.
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The third policy option is known as nominal gross domestic product targeting, the major proponent of which is the economist Scott Sumner. The idea is all about self-fulfilling expectations. Recall that the central bank owns the printing press, so it can create arbitrary quantities of dollars. By making a pre-commitment to keep the economy on a particular spending trajectory, self-fulfilling collapses in spending would not happen. Something similar to this policy seems to have kept Australia and Israel out of the Great Recession. But in order to sustain such a policy, the Fed might have to intervene in the economy quite frequently, and then the distributional consequences could be serious. Quantitative easing, for example, helps push up asset prices (the stock market has regained all the ground lost since 2009 and then some), which disproportionately benefits the wealthy. Free Money Machine
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