The key economic idea undergirding this policy idea is something called aggregate demand, which, stated simply, is the total amount of spending in the economy. During a financial crisis, aggregate demand goes down, since newly unemployed workers have less money and people who manage to keep their jobs reduce their spending out of fear. When people spend less money, sales fall, and businesses are forced to lay off workers, who then spend even less money, and so on. In other words, money goes in circles: my spending is your income, and your spending is my income. If we all simultaneously cut back on our spending—if aggregate demand declines—then everybody’s income declines, too. That is, very crudely, what happened during the Great Depression, when there were millions of perfectly able workers desperate for jobs, while perfectly functional factories lay idle due to lack of customers. It’s also what has been happening, to a milder degree, in our economy since the 2008 crisis.
For fiscal policy, increased government spending or decreased taxation is our accelerator; the opposite, austerity, is the brake. These work to add or subtract the amount of spending in the economy. For monetary policy, the federal funds rate can act as either an accelerator or a brake. U.S. banks are required to hold reserves at the Fed, which pays interest on them, similar to a normal checking account. For a bank to loan money to a real person, they must find someone willing to pay an interest rate above the Fed’s rate. So if the Fed jacks up the interest rate, it discourages lending, as banks are paid better to park their money at the Fed. Lowering the Fed rate does the opposite. The use of these tools is commonly expressed as a trade-off between unemployment and inflation. Try to push unemployment too low, and inflation will speed up as companies bid for scarce labor, pushing up wages and sending spending surging through the economy. Conversely, allow unemployment to get too high, and a collapse in spending can cause a collapse of prices, which will lead to more unemployment, which will lead to less spending, and so on. Federal Grant Online Service
What’s more, there is no reason to think that our aggregate demand problem will be cured without some kind of aggressive change. The economist Brad DeLong has calculated that reasonable estimates of the current and future damage to our economy from the present crisis are greater than those from the Great Depression. “Unless something—and it will need to be something major—returns the U.S. to its pre-2008 growth trajectory, future economic historians will not regard the Great Depression as the worst business-cycle disaster of the industrial age,” he wrote in the journal Project Syndicate. “It is we who are living in their worst case.” Already our current weak economic expansion is near the length of the postwar average, and a new recession may strike at any time, which would erase the pitiful gains of the past five years. (God only knows what is cooking in the dungeons of Wall Street.) If we change nothing, we could be stuck in our current situation for decades. Japan has been mired in a similar trap for almost thirty years. Free Money In Minutes