While the attention of politicians, pundits, and the people is focused on the increasingly bitter debate over health insurance reform, economic developments will have a more profound effect on the well-being of the nation and the fortunes of the Obama administration. Only an economy that provides a steady stream of new jobs and raises personal income can yield enough revenue to restore public confidence and finance the government we need. As the economy struggles to stabilize, we find ourselves in a deep hole--even deeper than we knew.
In November 2002, Ben Bernanke apologized--for the Fed's role in causing the Great Depression of the 1930s. "I would like to say to Milton [Friedman] and Anna [Schwartz]: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry.
Should Tim Geithner's Wall Street consigliere make us queasy?
Should we care about economic inequality? That question is the subtext for most debates in American politics. It just remains below the surface because the party that thinks we shouldn't care about inequality--I'll give you one guess--has an endless string of obfuscations ("death tax," "small business," "tollgate to the middle class") to avoid admitting that it doesn't care about inequality. There are, however, some real reasons not to care about income inequality, and right-wingers who don't have to run for public office are happy to admit it.
The usual concern about the U.S.-China balance of economic and political power is couched in terms of our relative international payments positions. We've run a large current account deficit in recent years (imports above exports); they still have--by some measures--the largest current account surplus (exports above imports) even seen in a major country. They accumulate foreign assets, i.e., claims on other countries, such as the U.S. We issue a great deal of debt that is bought by foreigners, including China. There are some legitimate concerns in this framing of the problem--no country can in
Even some of our most sophisticated commentators doubt a link between consumer protection and any macroeconomic outcomes. Consumer protection, in this view, is microeconomics and quite different from macroeconomic issues (such as the speed and nature of our economic recovery). Officially measured interest rates are down from their height in the Great Panic of 2008-09 and the financial markets, broadly defined, continue to stabilize. But are retail credit conditions, i.e., the terms on which you can borrow, getting easier or tougher? On credit cards, there's no question: it's getting more expen
Is the end of sushi upon us? It may well be. Bluefin tuna stocks all over the world are on the verge of collapse, thanks to overfishing. The World Wildlife Federation has estimated that Northern bluefin could get wiped out within three years, while the Southern bluefin is critically endangered.
The debate over re-regulation of the financial sector has finally, and irreversibly, turned partisan. This helps define issues in ways that may be more familiar and thus easier to understand. In the blue corner we have Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Secretary Geithner's overall banking policy continues to be problematic, and his broader re-regulation effort is hampered by all the free passes he gave to bank CEOs earlier this year. But on consumer protection he has the right message and he delivered it forcefully to Congress last week: we need a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) and
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, Treasury Secretary Geithner--and Secretary of State Clinton--meet with a high-level Chinese delegation. According to official previews (i.e., the apparent contents of background briefings given to wire services), the economic topics are China's concerns about the value of the dollar (i.e., their investments in the U.S.) and the amount of debt that the U.S.
There are three kinds of "bubbles"--a term often used loosely when asset prices rise a great deal and then fall sharply, without an obvious corresponding shift in "fundamentals." A short-run bubble. Think about 17th century Dutch Tulip Mania: spectacular, probably disruptive, but not a major reason for the decline of the Netherlands as a global power. A distorting bubble. In this case, the increase in asset prices contributes to a reallocation of resources across sectors. Think of the Dot-com Bubble: fortunes were made and lost, the collapse was scary to many, and--at the end of the day--you'