Forward guidance consists of trying to reassure the markets that the Fed funds rate will stay low for a long time after full employment is reached, thereby calming fears that the Fed will step on the brakes the moment employment returns to normal levels. Quantitative easing is when the Fed uses newly printed money to purchase Treasury bonds and other financial assets, with the idea of pushing down longer-term interest rates and forcing money out into the economy. Economists and financial wonks can (and do) discuss the relative merits of these policies all day, but the one thing that almost everyone agrees on is that while they helped us avoid a full-blown depression, they did not restore full employment—or anything even close to it. Since the crisis, both output and employment growth has been weak. Federal Grant Qualifications
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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