Right now, Congress has the power to directly spend its way to full employment, but it’s not doing it. And neither are the state governments. In fact, since 2010, Congress and most of the states have been doing the exact opposite, sharply reducing spending. After the Great Depression, it took World War II to break the political deadlock and get Congress to dump money into the economy, but today, nothing similarly jarring is in sight. If the Fed took over, it would respond directly to the needs of the economy, without getting bogged down in endless politically charged debates about the virtues of austerity or the moral peril of government checks (recall how Senate “moderates” forced the Obama stimulus to be too small). Instead, it could respond, quickly and efficiently, to fluctuations in aggregate demand.
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The second major policy option, championed by International Monetary Fund economist Olivier Blanchard, is functionally very similar to the negative interest rate proposal, although it’s a little sneakier. Right now, the Fed targets inflation of 2 percent. Raising the target to 4 or 5 percent (assuming it could be achieved) would discourage savings and promote spending in the same way that negative interest rates would, but without the probable outrage at having money subtracted from one’s bank account. Free Money Help Now
While depression economics has many strange features, the most important one to remember is this: with slack in the economy, it’s possible to have an economic free lunch. If our economy were running at capacity, new government spending, for example, would tend to create inflation because the capacity (workers, raw materials, and equipment) would have to be bid away from someone else, thereby raising prices. But during a depression that doesn’t happen. Instead, new spending brings idle capacity into production. To put that another way, the single-most-important underpinning of a functioning economy is to ensure that there is sufficient aggregate demand. Free Money At Casino
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