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Friday, February 29, 2008

Bernanke's tightrope act?

by Calculated Risk on 2/29/2008 10:36:00 AM

More great analysis from Professor Jim Hamilton at Econbrowser: Bernanke's tightrope act

Some analysts are saying that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke is walking a tightrope-- if he does not drop interest rates quickly enough, the U.S. will be in recession, but if he goes too far, we'll see a resurgence of inflation. I am increasingly persuaded that's not an accurate description of the situation.
See Hamilton's excellent analysis. He concludes:
The Fed chief must be worried that a recession in the present instance would precipitate major financial instability, in which case perhaps the choice between paying now and paying later argues in favor of latter.

In any case, the tightrope analogy seems a misleading way to frame the issue, in that it presupposes that there exists a choice for the fed funds rate that would somehow contain both the solvency and the inflation problems. In my opinion, there is no such ideal target rate, and the notion that we can address the difficulties with a sagely chosen combination of monetary and fiscal stimulus and regulatory workout is in my mind doing more harm than good. Better for everyone to admit up front just how bad the problem is, and acknowledge that there is no cheap way out.

No, I don't believe that Bernanke is walking a tightrope at all. But I do hope he's checked out the net that's supposed to catch him if he falls.
I also think Bernanke has chosen a little more inflation: Inflation is Your (Ben's) Friend