National Journal Death Spiral Watch
Spencer Ackerman on Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's Endorsement of Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Plan

DeLong Smackdown Watch: Tim Duy Edition

Tim Duy writes:

Economist's View: Tim Duy: Not So Bad?: Brad DeLong is puzzled. Earlier this week, defending Greenspan-era monetary policy,

Now we are not yet out of the woods. If the tide of financial distress sweeps the Fed and the Treasury away--if we find ourselves in a financial-meltdown world where unemployment or inflation kisses 10%--then I will unhappily concede, and say that Greenspanism was a mistake. But so far the real economy in which people make stuff and other people buy it has been remarkably well insulated from panic at 57th and Park and on Canary Wharf.

Today Delong adds:

I still do not understand why the real side of the economy is doing so well in relative terms. The worst financial distress since the Great Depression ought to trigger the worst downturn in demand, production, and employment since the Great Depression. It hasn't--at least not so far.

Good questions; I think economic activity has surpassed most peoples’ expectations. My answer to DeLong’s question comes in three parts:

(1) The nature of the expansion defines the nature of the following contraction. The post-tech bubble expansion was anemic by most measures.... The tepid upside suggests a tepid downside....

(2) The impact of the consumer slowdown is partially offshored, a point which I think deserves greater attention. This shifts job destruction to an overseas producer.... Note too that exports are not falling as they were in the 2001 recession as the global economy has held up better than expected.

(3) Perhaps most importantly, however, is the massive liquidity injections from the rest of the world, or what Brad Setser calls “the quiet bailout.” In the first half of this, global central banks accumulated $283.5 billion of Treasuries and Agencies, something around $1,000 per capita. This is real money.... Foreign CBs are happily financing the first US stimulus package; will they be happy to finance a second? Do they have a choice? Their accumulation of Agency debt is also keeping the US mortgage market afloat. Do not underestimate the impact of these foreign capital inflows. If the rest of the world treated the US like we treated emerging Asia in 1997-1998, the US economy would experience a slowdown commensurate with the magnitude of the financial market crisis.... In short: External dynamics play a significant role in explaining the relatively mild US downturn. As long as foreign CBs are willing to accumulate US debt, the US government is willing to issue debt, the Federal Reserve is willing to accommodate the debt with low interest rates, we will avoid the most dire deflationary predictions.