The first and most crucial tasks of economic policy in the coronavirus public health crisis are to keep the supply shock from becoming a distributional shock and from becoming a demand shock as well. Successfully accomplishing these ranks requires, first, a great increase in social insurance spending: in a country as rich as this one is, nobody should be thrown in the poverty and destitution and have to deal with those problems as well as with the disease. The expansion of social insurance spending cannot be precisely targeted: lots of people will wind up getting more than their fair share. Too bad: it is inappropriate to make the best the enemy of the good and the attainable here, and to make it such that in order to prevent some from getting more than their share, we ensure that many who need support get much much less.
Somewhat similarly, the necessary expansion of aggregate demand in order to maintain and return the economy to as close to full employment as possible will attract, in fact has already attracted, critics. Preventing the coronavirus shock from becoming a major and prolonged demand shock will be inconsistent with the government not spending a lot more, will be inconsistent with a stability in the value of the national debt, will be inconsistent with avoiding a long run increase in taxes, may well be inconsistent with any form of normalizing interest rates to gratify rentiers, And might be inconsistent with maintaining a 2% per year Inflation target. Once again, the proper societal response would be: too bad. As John Maynard Keynes said: what we can do, we can afford in the sense of arranging government finances to make it so.
Our task is to arrange government finances so that Americans can do as much as possible, and not to hit what are some times artificial and are sometimes intermediate policy objectives targets:
Heather Boushey: Off-Kilter Podcast: Beyer + Boushey https://medium.com/@OffKilterShow/beyer-boushey-8be89af1e80: ‘Continuing Off-Kilter’s ongoing series on poverty and inequality in the age of COVID19… This week brought the somber news that 2.1 million more Americans filed for unemployment in the past week. This brings the total number of unemployment claims over the last 10 weeks to 40.8 million — more than a quarter of the American workforce. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 families, including 1 in 3 families with children, are reporting they can no longer afford adequate food.... We run through some of our listeners’ top FAQ — like, what are automatic triggers and why do we need them?... Rebecca sat down with Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (and self-described “econ junkie”) and Heather Boushey, president & CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and author of Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It. This episode’s guests: Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair, U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Heather Boushey, president & CEO, Washington Center for Equitable Growth…
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