Thursday, September 8, 2011

Advice for Obama

Economist Brad DeLong has some suggestions for President Obama regarding how he should handle the country’s current economic crisis without expecting any help from Congress, because they can’t agree on anything. This means that regulatory reform is a non-starter and the president will have to result in putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to increase quantitative easing, close the spending gap and be willing to invest government dollars in infrastructure projects. It would also help, he argues, if the Treasury Secretary spoke on the benefits of a weak U.S. dollar to help exports and give a boost to the struggling European economy. For more on this continue reading the following article from Economist’s View.

Brad DeLong:

...What in most important is not just what Obama proposes on Thursday (because nothing will get done by congress), but rather what he does in the weeks and months afterwards to actually tune the economy so that it creates more jobs. I think Obama should:

  1. Apply a full-court press to the Federal Reserve to get it to target nominal GDP to close the spending gap, for it is fear of risk that nobody will spend to buy what you make and confidence that your purchasing power is safe in cash that is holding back businesses from spending money to hire people.

  2. Apply a full-court press to the Federal Reserve to get it to engage in more quantitative easing--into taking more risk onto its own balance sheet, for it is an unwillingness on the part of Wall Street to hold the risk currently out there that is making it very difficult for a wide range of risky spending projects to get financing.

  3. Quantitative easing does not have to be done by the Fed: the Treasury can use residual TARP authority to take tail risk onto its own books as well, and should be doing so as much as possible.

  4. Expansion does not require that the federal government spend: using Treasury (and Fed!) money to grease the financing of infrastructure and other investments by states would pay enormous dividends.

  5. For the Treasury Secretary to announce that a weak dollar is in America's interest right now would not only boost exports, but it would immediately lead to a shift in monetary policy in Europe toward a much more expansionary profile--which would be good for the world.

None of these is first-best. All of these are likely to do some good. All should be tried.

What's discouraging is that there doesn't seem to be any sense of urgency about the employment crisis itself. It's more of a reluctant and begrudging response driven by a shift in the political winds. If the polls weren't falling, I doubt we'd even be hearing a speech on job creation. So I hope there's follow-through as well -- these things should be happening already -- but we'll see.

This article was republished with permission from Economist's View.

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