53 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

It’s Finally Time for German Fiscal Stimulus

| Oct. 21, 2019

As long as the German economy was doing well, as it was during the recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis, there existed a coherent rationale for German fiscal austerity.  The national commitment to budget discipline was enshrined in the 2009 “debt brake,” which limits the federal structural deficit to 0.35% of GDP, and by the 2011 “schwarze Null” (that is, “black zero”) policy of fully balancing the budget.  Indeed Angela Merkel’s government proudly achieved a balanced budget in 2012 and surpluses in 2014-18.

With unemployment low and growth relatively strong, fear of overheating the domestic economy was a legitimate counter-argument against the other countries that were always urging Germany to undertake fiscal stimulus.  They wanted more German spending, which would reduce its current account surplus (a huge 8-9% of GDP in recent years) and spill over into demand that would help other euro members, especially those to the south.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Euro's First 20 YEARS

| 02/01/2019

In Europe, twenty years ago this month, 11 long-standing national currencies disappeared and were replaced by the new single currency, the euro.  Since then, the euro has had its successes and failures.

Let us review the experience of the euro’s first two decades.  Where there were failures, to what extent were they the result of avoidable technical mistakes?  Of warnings not heeded?  Or were they the inevitable result of a determination to go ahead with monetary union in the absence of a political willingness to support fundamental changes necessary to make it work?

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Blog Post - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Trade and Inequality Within Countries

| Jan. 05, 2018

Inequality has been on the rise within the United States and other advanced countries since the 1980s and especially since the turn of the century.  The possibility that trade is responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the rest of the population has of course become a major political preoccupation

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Deal-maker Trump Can't Deal

| Aug. 28, 2017

Trump has threatened new trade barriers against China while simultaneously depending on Beijing’s help to rein in North Korea’s alarming nuclear weapons program. These two aspects of US policy toward China are at odds.

It feels inappropriate to write a column that treats the two issues on a par. To state the obvious, the stakes are vastly higher in a potential US-North Korean military conflict, especially when it comes to the real danger that nuclear weapons will be used, but even if they are not. But we need to consider the Chinese trade issues together with the Korean nuclear issues because the Trump White House does. (Chief strategist Steve Bannon, for example, had the priorities reversed. Just before he was fired he said that the Korea issue was a “side show” compared with the all-important “economic war with China.”)

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Fed and Inequality

| Oct. 28, 2016
Populist politicians, among others, have claimed in recent years that monetary policy is too easy and that it is hurting ordinary workers.   But raising interest rates is not the way to address income inequality.It is a strange claim for anyone to make, but especially for populists.  Low interest rates are good for debtors, of course, and bad for creditors. Throughout most of US history, populists have supported easy monetary policy and low interest rates, to help the little guy, against bankers, who had hard hearts and believed in hard money.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Brexit, Trump, and Workers Left Behind

| July 19, 2016
Observers have pointed out many parallels between the June referendum on Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the US.  One parallel is that both the British movement to leave the EU and the Trump campaign for the American Republican nomination achieved success that few had expected, particularly not the various elites.  In both cases, the general interpretation is that the elites underestimated the anger of working class voters who feel they have been left behind by economic forces in a fast-changing world, and in particular by globalization.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

A Way to Save the United Kingdom

| June 29, 2016
I see a possible way out for the trap that Brits now find themselves in, a way to keep Great Britain great.  The Scots, under Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister of Scotland), would decide immediately that they will hold a new referendum on independence.  This referendum would state explicitly that if the United Kingdom decides to stay in the EU then Scotland will stay in the UK, but if Britain leaves the EU then Scotland will leave the UK.  The decision to hold a referendum on conditional Scottish independence would be approved by the Westminster parliament.