Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Depression Looms Without More Stimulus

Do we really need more economic stimulus? We have already spent trillions of dollars attacking this financial crisis, and unfortunately we also have seen billions apparently wasted by poor policy decisions and implementation. All that aside, according to famed economist Robert Shiller, we need more economic stimulus or else we are likely facing another depression. For more on this, read the following blog post from Mark Thoma.

Robert Shiller says we need to continue with the monetary and fiscal policies we are pursuing, but both efforts need to be larger:

Depression Lurks Unless There’s More Stimulus, by Robert Shiller, Commentary, Bloomberg: In the Great Depression ... the U.S. government had a great deal of trouble maintaining its commitment to economic stimulus. “Pump- priming” was talked about and tried, but not consistently. The Depression could have been mostly prevented, but wasn’t. ...

In the face of a similar Depression-era psychology today, we are in need of massive pump-priming again. We appear to be in a much better situation due to the stronger efforts to date. Still, there is a danger that, because of a combination of faulty economic theory and inadequate appreciation of human psychology, as well as deep public anger, we will not continue with such stimulus on a high enough level. ...

In our analysis of the current economic crisis, we conclude that the government should have two targets. One would be a joint fiscal-monetary policy target. The same kind of expansionary policies embodied in the government expenditure stimulus and tax cuts that are already being tried have to be done on a big enough scale and for a long enough time in the future. ...

The government should also have a credit target. Once again, we are calling for more of the same kinds of existing policies... Achieving this requires new approaches, like those announced by the Bernanke Fed and the Obama administration, but on a continuing and even larger scale. ...

In this crisis, acceptance of these measures is being replaced with outrage. It is increasing the blood pressure of the public, and that can’t continue without damage to our system. ... It is time to face up to what needs to be done. The sticker shock involved will be large, but the costs in terms of lost output of not meeting either the credit target or the aggregate demand target will be yet larger.

It would be a shame if we are so overwhelmed by anger at the unfairness of it all that we do not take the positive measures needed to restore us to full employment. That would not just be unfair to the U.S. taxpayer. That would be unfair to those who are living in Hoovervilles...; it would be unfair to those who are being evicted from their homes, and can’t find new ones because they can’t find jobs. That would be unfair to those who have to drop out of school because they, or their parents, can’t find jobs.

It is now time to keep our eye on the ball and set clear targets to fix a system that broke when our animal spirits got out of bounds.

This post can also be viewed on economistsview.typepad.com.

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