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Another Data Point that the Failure to Staff the Federal Government Has Been Obama's Biggest Failure

We Are Not Making It Up as We Go Along

But I share Paul Krugman's strong sense that many in the Pain Caucus are--that they start with a prejudice that more unemployment is somehow better, and look for arguments to justify that.

Paul Krugman:

Making It Up: [O]ther things equal, demand is higher, the lower the real interest rate. Do you really want to quarrel with that? But right now, thanks to the aftermath of the financial crisis, even a zero nominal rate, which is a slightly negative real rate, isn’t low enough to produce full employment.

In normal times, when the zero lower bound isn’t binding, this basic framework suggests that conventional monetary policy can play the key role in stabilization. So in normal times I’m all in favor of having the Fed take on the job of managing the business cycle, and basing fiscal policy on long-term concerns.

But now we’re up against the zero lower bound; and that changes everything.

The idea that it would be good if we could raise expected inflation comes straight out of this minimalist framework: the economy “wants” a negative real interest rate, and the only way to get that given the zero lower bound is to have positive expected inflation.

The case for fiscal expansion also comes out of this fairly straightforwardly: if you can’t raise employment by cutting interest rates, deficit spending — which doesn’t crowd out private spending when the interest rate doesn’t change — becomes a way to put unemployed resources to work.

The point is that I’m not making it up as I go along; I have a consistent view here, which yields unorthodox conclusions right now only because we’re in an unusual situation....

My sense, obviously, is that a lot of the people who want monetary tightening start from a prejudice — they just dislike the idea of easy money — and then look for some arguments to back up that prejudice. And that’s no way to do economics.