Once again, we have a piece by an impressively credentialed academic Republican economists that seems to me to have... no contact with reality. There is no economist I know of save for Robert Barro who has ever said or implied that the "neutral" real interest rate today is the same 2.4% that the average real interest rate was from 1986-2008. To the contrary, there has been a very long and active discussion—led over the past two decades by current New York Fed President John Williams—about how far the "neutral" rate has fallen, and how persistent that fall will be. And one conclusion of that debate has been that the current real federal funds rate of "only 0.7%" does indeed look "high" by some important metrics. So why would anyone write as thought this literature does not exist?:

Robert J. Barro: Is Politics Getting to the Fed?: "From the early 1980s until the start of the financial crisis in September 2008, the US Federal Reserve seemed to have a coherent process for adjusting its main short-term interest rate, the federal funds rate. Its policy had three key components: the nominal interest rate would rise by more than the rate of inflation; it would increase in response to a strengthening of the real economy; and it would tend toward a long-term normal value. Accordingly, one could infer the normal rate from the average federal funds rate over time. Between January 1986 and August 2008, it was 4.9%, and the average inflation rate was 2.5%.... The Fed’s prolonged low-interest-rate policy, which was supplemented by quantitative easing (QE), seems misguided, considering that the economy had long since recovered, at least in terms of the unemployment rate. The nominal federal funds rate was not placed on an upward trajectory until the end of 2016.... It is hard to view today’s nominal federal funds rate of 2.4% as high. With an inflation rate of 1.7%, the real federal funds rate is only 0.7%. And yet the Fed’s “high”-interest-rate policy was fiercely attacked by Wall Street.... That view is not crazy if you are focused solely on boosting the stock market. On average, interest-rate cuts do tend to stimulate the stock market by making real returns on bonds less competitive. But that does not mean it is good economic policy always to be cutting rates...


#noted #2019-10-19

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