Blog - Views on the Economy and the World

Views on the Economy and the World

A blog by Jeffrey Frankel

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Views on the Economy and the World,” Views on the Economy and the World, https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/views-economy-and-world.

359 posts

teaser image

teaser image

The European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) has begun asking EU importers to report data on emissions of greenhouse gases by their foreign suppliers (direct, but also indirect, i.e., embodied in the electricity they use).  The first round of reports were due January 31 of this year.  European importers are required by July to have established access to the data on emissions embedded in their suppliers’ products. The full CBAM regime, with European penalties against imports from countries that don’t price carbon as the EU does, will go into operation on January 1st, 2026.   It will have a major impact on producers of carbon-intensive products among EU trading partners.

teaser image

teaser image

Lots of countries are voting.  Recent elections in a number of Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs) have demonstrated anew the proposition that major currency devaluations are more likely to come immediately after an election, rather than before one. Nigeria, Turkey, Argentina, Egypt, and Indonesia are five countries that have experienced post-election devaluations within the last year.

  1. The election-devaluation cycle

Economists will recall a 50-year-old paper by Nobel Prize winning professor Bill Nordhaus as essentially initiating research on the Political Business Cycle (PBC).  The PBC refers to governments’ general inclination towards fiscal and monetary expansion in the year leading up to an election, in hopes of re-electing the incumbent president or at least the incumbent party.  The idea is that growth in output and employment will accelerate before the election, boosting the government’s popularity, whereas the major costs in terms of debt troubles and inflation will come after the election.

teaser image

teaser image

We have heard much about the puzzle that US economic performance under President Joe Biden has been much stronger than voters perceive it to be.  But the current episode is just one instance of a bigger historical puzzle:  the US economy has since World War II consistently done better under Democratic presidents than under Republican presidents.  This fact is even less widely known, including among Democratic voters, than the truth about Biden’s term.  Indeed, some poll results suggest that more Americans believe the reverse, that Republican presidents are better stewards of the economy than Democrats.

teaser image

teaser image

By now, quite a variety of explanations have been offered for the puzzle that the unusually good state of the US economy has not been reflected in public opinion surveys, and especially not in polls regarding President Joe Biden’s bid for re-election in November.  At least six hypotheses have been put forward regarding the performance-perception gap.

teaser image

teaser image

Much is difficult to understand about what has happened to one of our two political parties.   Among other things, I don’t understand why some Republican congresspeople oppose an extension of US support for the government of Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, and why others who may be in favor of continuing support give it so low priority as to allow their colleagues to block it, by holding it hostage to unrelated Mexican border concerns.

Weighing costs and benefits, backing Ukraine is one of the most sensible US foreign affairs policy priorities in a long time. As Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky said earlier this month, “Giving us money or giving us weapons, you support yourself.”

teaser image

Fix Air Traffic Control!

| Dec. 17, 2023

teaser image

Air travel is soaring, as a long-term trend, especially in the growing economy.  It is also soaring seasonally: The few days after Christmas are expected to be especially intense.  Many passengers will experience maddening flight delays this holiday season, especially in the US. A few might be exposed to scary airport near-misses.  It is reasonable to hope that the excellent US safety record — no fatal crashes since 2009 — will be extended.  But close calls have increased during the post-pandemic return to commercial air travel, reaching about 300 in the most recent year, 27 of them serious.

teaser image

teaser image

The Bureau of Labor Statistics on November 14, remarkably, announced that the US CPI had been unchanged in October (whether seasonally adjusted or not).  That is, the level of the CPI was unchanged, not the inflation rate, which was zero.  Of course, single-month numbers are too volatile to draw much of a conclusion.  Not every month will see the price of gasoline plunge by 5.0 %, as it did from September to October.

More informatively, the headline CPI inflation rate over the last 12 months was 3.2 %, far down from 6.5 % in 2022.  At the risk of tempting fate, one might say that the inflation battle is being won.

teaser image

teaser image

Ten years ago this November, the 18th Central Committee of China’s Communist Party held its quinquennial Third Plenum.  The meeting decided on a set of reforms that were well-chosen to sustain the national growth rate.  But the reforms have not been implemented, contributing to a big slowdown in the economy.

  1. The decline in Chinese growth

As of ten years ago, 2013, a naive extrapolation of the differential in growth rates between China and the US suggested that the number two economy would overtake the number one economy by 2021 (when GDPs are compared using nominal exchange rates). Some even said the cross-over year would be 2019. This did not happen; the US economy remains far ahead.  Goldman Sachs and others now project that China’s GDP will not catch up with US GDP until 2035if ever.  Even if the crossover occurs, it may be only temporary.  The Chinese economy is forecast to peak sometime in the middle of the century, after which the ongoing decline in the labor force will outweigh productivity growth.  This drastic revision of crossover forecasts is one indication of how sharply trend growth in the Middle Kingdom has been revised downward since 2013.

teaser image

Naomi Klein’s brand

| Sep. 21, 2023

teaser image

Naomi Klein has a new book, Doppleganger: A Trip into the Mirror World.  It could offer some sorely needed insights into the bizarre tangle of political polarization, contested realities, and viral digital communication in which we find ourselves in the 21st century — the improbable dream from which we are evidently not going to wake up.  The insights include a recognition that the far left and far right have some things in common and a candid critique of the personal brand that she had developed in her own past writings.

teaser image

teaser image

What a difference a year makes!  In 2021, interest rates were close to zero in the US and the UK,  and slightly negative in the eurozone and Japan.  They were expected to remain low indefinitely.  Remarkably, as recently as January 2022, investors thought that the probability the interest rate would rise above 4.0 % within 5 years was only 12% in the US, 4 % for the euro-zone, and 7 % for the UK [p.45].  Those were short-term nominal interest rates.  Correcting for expected inflation, real interest rates were substantially negative and expected to remain so.