Economics & Global Affairs

258 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Let’s Forget about 2% Inflation

| July 29, 2019

The Fed has some reasons for cutting interest rates at its meeting July 31, or subsequently if the US economy weakens. (And there are some good arguments on the other side as well, if growth remains as strong as it has been over the last year.)  But I find less persuasive one argument for easing: a perceived imperative to get inflation up to 2.0% or higher.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke set a 2% target for the US inflation rate in January 2012.  Some other countries had already done the same.  Japan followed suit a year later. Indeed Shinzo Abe’s successful accession to prime minister in late 2012 was predicated on the promise that monetary policy would raise inflation (Japan having previously suffered from negative inflation).

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Moore on Gold and Commodities

| May 01, 2019

A century ago, the gold standard was considered a guarantor of monetary stability.  That golden era is long-gone.  (If it every really existed at all.  The general price level fell 53% in US and 45% in the UK during 1873-1896 due to a dearth of gold deposit discoveries.)

Continuing my thoughts on the Fed candidacy of Stephen Moore: he has said several times that he favors a return to gold.  In true Trumpian fashion, he recently denied having said it despite the clear video evidence.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Moore Troubles for the Fed

Apr. 30, 2019

Of the two men whom Donald Trump had intended to nominate to empty seats on the Federal Reserve Board, Herman Cain has now withdrawn his name.  This leaves the other one, Stephen Moore.

The Senate would have to decide whether to confirm Moore. He has some problems roughly analogous to Cain’s:  he is considered to be under an ethical cloud and he often gets his economic facts wrong.  Cynics might respond that he would thereby fit right in with the roster of Trump nominees throughout the government.  But Trump’s earlier appointments to the Fed have been people of ability and integrity and have been doing a good job, Chair Jerome Powell in particular. Perhaps Trump did not start paying attention to Fed appointments until recently.

 

 

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Rising US Real Interest Rates Imply Falling Commodity Prices

| Aug. 28, 2018

Real interest rates tend to have a negative effect on real prices of commodities: oil and gas, minerals, and agricultural commodities. One might hazard the prediction that US real interest rates are headed up, and therefore, other things equal, real commodity prices will decline.

The theory of the relationship between real interest rates and commodity prices is long-established. Personally, I like the “overshootingformulation of the theory.

Iran Currency

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Blog Post - Iran Matters

Is Iran's Economy Collapsing?

    Author:
  • Arash Pourebrahimi
| Aug. 07, 2018

Iran’s economy is having difficulties for sure but is far from “collapsing”. While the Iranian rial has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the US dollar in the unofficial market since January 2018, this is nothing new for Iran’s economy. Every president since the end of Iran-Iraq war had to deal with a sort of analogous currency crisis.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

An Economic Platform for the Democrats

| May 29, 2018

Democrats are gearing up for the November mid-term elections, in which they hope to take back the US House of Representatives. Candidates are finding that the voters are not necessarily paying close attention to foreign affairs or even Trump scandals, and are more concerned about “pocketbook issues.” The conventional wisdom still stands: underlying the shock election of Mr Trump was the worry by the median household that it has been left behindby globalization and technological change and that the gains have been going to the rich instead.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Seven Reasons China Won’t Yield in Trump’s Trade War

| Apr. 23, 2018

President Trump enacted steel and aluminum tariffs in March, citing national security.  China is the intended target, as most other major suppliers were eventually exempted. On April 2, China retaliated by imposing tariffs on 128 American products (representing about $3 billion of trade), ranging from 15% on fruits to 25% on pork.  Trump April 3 announced 25% tariffs on another 1300 Chinese products [representing some $50 billion of trade], citing forced transfer of US technology and IPR. China on April 4 responded with plans for retaliatory 25% tariffs on 106 US exports -- including soybeans, autos, and airplanes -- to go into effect when the US tariffs do.  On April 5, the White House announced it was considering $100 billion of additional tariffs on China.

If these tariffs go ahead, yes, it is a trade war. How will it end?

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Long-term Job Decline in US Manufacturing

| Nov. 13, 2017

What does international trade have to do with US jobs?  Surely the US trade deficit in manufacturing has reduced employment?  Not as much as you would think, on net.  Especially with regard to overall employment, which in the long run is determined by the size of the labor force.  But even if manufacturing jobs are considered more important than service jobs, trade policy has not been the main reason for their decline.  Perhaps the raw statistics can be made more intuitively convincing if one makes comparisons with other sectors.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Case Against Subsidizing Housing Debt

| May 29, 2017

Economists hesitate to explain to people that they should borrow less. The advice sounds too “schoolmarmish.” It seems to lack sympathy for those whose incomes are not keeping up with the standard of living that they had expected based on historical trends. But for those concerned with the reach of the nanny state, the state is precisely what encourages citizens to borrow. And it does nobody any favors to get them overly indebted, as the millions of homeowners who went underwater in the housing crisis ten years ago discovered.