16 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

History Warns Us to Avoid a W-shaped Recession

| May 03, 2020

“Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it.”  And the rest of us are condemned to repeat George Santayana.

Will the Coronavirus Recession of 2020 be V-shaped?  Or U-shaped?  If we fail to heed the lessons of history it is likely to be W-shaped, with incipient recovery followed by successive relapses into sickness and recession.

As has been widely noted, we would have been better prepared to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic in the first place if everyone had paid more attention to the past history of epidemics. Be that as it may, the world is now deep into the pandemic and its economic consequences, the most severe such events since the interwar period, 1918-1939.  As decision-makers in every country contemplate their next steps, they would do well to ponder the precedents of that interwar period.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Black Swans Like COVID-19 are Predictable

| Mar. 30, 2020

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the US housing crash of 2007-09, and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, are called “black swans”: in each case, few people were able to predict them reliably, at least not with precision.  But they were known unknowns, not unknown unknowns.  That is, in each case, knowledgeable analysts were fully aware that such a thing could happen, even that it was likely to happen eventually.  They could not predict that the event would happen with high probability in any given year.  But the consequences of each of these events were severe, and predictably so.  Thus, policymakers should have listened to the warnings and should have taken steps in advance. They could have helped avert or mitigate disaster if they had done so.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Six Practical Proposals for Progressive Tax Policy

Jan. 02, 2020

It was quite a surprise, three years ago, when Donald Trump won a majority in the US Electoral College, thus becoming the 45th president.  In the search for explanations, one immediately dominated:  Democrats had not been sufficiently aware of the problem of income inequality or had neglected to propose good solutions to it.

This is presumably the logic behind radical proposals coming from some of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election. Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example, has proposed an annual tax on the wealth of the wealthiest Americans (originally to be 2 % per year, but now up to 6 %).

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Moore on Gold and Commodities

| May 01, 2019

A century ago, the gold standard was considered a guarantor of monetary stability.  That golden era is long-gone.  (If it ever really existed at all.  The general price level fell 53% in US and 45% in the UK during 1873-1896 due to a dearth of gold deposit discoveries.)

Continuing my thoughts on the Fed candidacy of Stephen Moore: he has said several times that he favors a return to gold.  In true Trumpian fashion, he recently denied having said it despite the clear video evidence.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Moore Troubles for the Fed

Apr. 30, 2019

Of the two men whom Donald Trump had intended to nominate to empty seats on the Federal Reserve Board, Herman Cain has now withdrawn his name.  This leaves the other one, Stephen Moore.

The Senate would have to decide whether to confirm Moore. He has some problems roughly analogous to Cain’s:  he is considered to be under an ethical cloud and he often gets his economic facts wrong.  Cynics might respond that he would thereby fit right in with the roster of Trump nominees throughout the government.  But Trump’s earlier appointments to the Fed have been people of ability and integrity and have been doing a good job, Chair Jerome Powell in particular. Perhaps Trump did not start paying attention to Fed appointments until recently.

 

 

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

An Economic Platform for the Democrats

| May 29, 2018

Democrats are gearing up for the November mid-term elections, in which they hope to take back the US House of Representatives. Candidates are finding that the voters are not necessarily paying close attention to foreign affairs or even Trump scandals, and are more concerned about “pocketbook issues.” The conventional wisdom still stands: underlying the shock election of Mr Trump was the worry by the median household that it has been left behindby globalization and technological change and that the gains have been going to the rich instead.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Choice of Candidates for Fed Chair

| Oct. 30, 2017

The Trump Administration has said it will announce its choice for the new Chair of the Federal Reserve Board by November 3. Subject to Senate confirmation, the chosen candidate will succeed Janet Yellen, whose term ends February 3.

The White House has said it views five candidates as front runners. Two are eminent economists with unusually impressive records — both in academic research, mostly at West Coast universities, and as practitioners of macroeconomic policy. That would be Yellen herself, who is a strong candidate for reappointment, and Stanford’s John Taylor. The other three front-runners are not professionally trained as economists, but rather come from financial backgrounds: Gary Cohn, Jerome Powell, and Kevin Warsh. They worked, respectively, for Goldman Sachs, Dillon Read, and Morgan Stanley; all three also have important government experience.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Fiscal Education for the G-7

| May 26, 2016
As the G-7 Leaders gather in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26-27, the still fragile global economy is on their minds.  They would like a road map to address stagnant growth. Their approach should be to talk less about currency wars and more about fiscal policy.Fiscal policy vs. monetary policyUnder the conditions that have prevailed in most major countries over the last ten years, we have reason to think that fiscal policy is a more powerful tool for affecting the level of economic activity, as compared to monetary policy.