Ko ekonomska politika postane povsem impotentna

ZDA počasi zmanjkuje municije. Fedova igračkanja z obrestno mero nimajo željenega učinka na ekonomsko aktivnost. Nizke obrestne mere vplivajo le še preko znižanja tečaja valute, kar pomeni, da ZDA (Fed) manipulira vrednost dolarja – omejuje rast uvoza in spodbuja izvoz. Vendar velikega učinka od tega ni opaziti, ker druge države počnejo enako – po EU še Kitajska. Na drugi strani so enako neuspešne davčne spodbude. Kot se sprašuje Joseph Stiglitz: če ameriško gospodarstvo v dobrih časih potrebuje tisoč milijard dolarjev letnega deficita, koliko ga bo potrebovalo šele v slabih časih?

V bistvu je vsem, razen Trumpu, zmanjkalo idej. Trump je poln novih zamisli, ki pa vedno znova privedejo nazaj v situacijo zavedanja, da so ekonomske politike v tej konstelaciji postale povsem impotentne.

At one level, the Fed move was of little import: a 25-basis-point change will have little consequence. The idea that the Fed could fine-tune the economy by carefully timed changes in interest rates should by now have long been discredited – even if it provides entertainment for Fed watchers and employment for financial journalists. If lowering the interest rate from 5.25% to essentially zero had little impact on the economy in 2008-09, why should we think that lowering rates by 0.25% will have any observable effect? Large corporations are still sitting on hoards of cash: it’s not a lack of liquidity that’s stopping them from investing.

Long ago, John Maynard Keynes recognized that while a sudden tightening of monetary policy, restricting the availability of credit, could slow the economy, the effects of loosening policy when the economy is weak can be minimal. Even employing new instruments such as quantitative easing can have little effect, as Europe has learned. In fact, the negative interest rates being tried by several countries may, perversely, weaken the economy as a result of unfavorable effects on bank balance sheets and thus lending.

The lower interest rates do lead to a lower exchange rate. Indeed, this may be the principal channel through which Fed policy works today. But isn’t that nothing more than “competitive devaluation,” for which the Trump administration roundly criticizes China? And that, predictably, has been followed by other countries lowering their exchange rate, implying that any benefit to the US economy through the exchange-rate effect will be short-lived. More ironic is the fact that the recent decline in China’s exchange rate came about because of the new round of American protectionism and because China stopped interfering with the exchange rate – that is, stopped supporting it.

America should be in a boom, with three enormous fiscal-stimulus measures in the past three years. The 2017 tax cut, which mainly benefited billionaires and corporations, added some $1.5-2 trillion to the ten-year deficit. An almost $300 billion increase in expenditures over two years averted a government shutdown in 2018. And at the end of July, a new agreement to avoid another shutdown added another $320 billion of spending. If it takes trillion-dollar annual deficits to keep the US economy going in good times, what will it take when things are not so rosy?

Vir: Joseph Stiglitz, Project Syndicate

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