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Economist's View: Paul Krugman: The Phantom Menace

Paul Krugman says that we should fear the fear of inflation. Via Mark Thoma:

Economist's View: Paul Krugman: The Phantom Menace: Paul Krugman wonders why the Fed is so concerned with inflation when wage growth isn't keeping up with productivity:

The Phantom Menace, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Over the last few weeks monetary officials have sounded increasingly worried about rising prices. On Wednesday, Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, declared that inflation "is running at a rate that is just too corrosive to be accepted by a virtuous central banker."

I'm worried too... but not about recent price increases. What worries me, instead, is the Fed's overreaction to those increases.... Fed officials now seem worried that we may be seeing the start of another round of self-sustaining inflation. But is that a realistic fear? Only if you think we can have a wage-price spiral without, you know, the wages part.

The point is that wage increases can be a major driver of inflation only if workers consistently receive raises that substantially exceed productivity growth. And that just hasn't been happening....

It would be an exaggeration to say that there's no inflation threat at all. I can think of ways in which inflation could become a problem. But it's much easier to think of ways in which the Federal Reserve, wrongly focused on the phantom menace of a new wage-price spiral, could be slow to respond to bigger threats, like a rapidly deflating housing bubble. So I don't fear inflation nearly as much as I fear the fear of inflation...