Economics & Global Affairs

31 Items

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Fed and Inequality

| Oct. 28, 2016
Populist politicians, among others, have claimed in recent years that monetary policy is too easy and that it is hurting ordinary workers.   But raising interest rates is not the way to address income inequality.It is a strange claim for anyone to make, but especially for populists.  Low interest rates are good for debtors, of course, and bad for creditors. Throughout most of US history, populists have supported easy monetary policy and low interest rates, to help the little guy, against bankers, who had hard hearts and believed in hard money.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Addressing Commodity Price Volatility in Algeria & Morocco

| June 11, 2016
I recently visited Algeria and Morocco.  Like so many other developing countries, they are dealing with the sharp decline in global commodity prices that has taken place over the last few years.  In meetings in Algiers and Casablanca, I offered four concrete ideas for policies to help commodity-exporting countries deal with global price volatility.  The four proposals, very briefly, are: (1) hedging with options (as Mexico does), (2) commodity bonds, (3) countercyclical fiscal institutions (like Chile’s), and (4) central bank targeting of a currency-plus-commodity basket.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Fiscal Education for the G-7

| May 26, 2016
As the G-7 Leaders gather in Ise-Shima, Japan, on May 26-27, the still fragile global economy is on their minds.  They would like a road map to address stagnant growth. Their approach should be to talk less about currency wars and more about fiscal policy.Fiscal policy vs. monetary policyUnder the conditions that have prevailed in most major countries over the last ten years, we have reason to think that fiscal policy is a more powerful tool for affecting the level of economic activity, as compared to monetary policy.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Talk on trade: TPP & Trump

| May 20, 2016
The ITC Wednesday released its mandated report on the economic effects estimated to result from the TransPacific Partnership.  As is usual in standard trade models, the estimated welfare gains may sound small: on the order of ¼ % of income.  But that would still be way worth doing.    Furthermore the ITC study, by design, leaves out a lot.  For example, the Petri-Plummer study from the Peterson Institute estimates income gains from TPP that are twice as large, in part because it takes into account Melitz-style opportunities for  more productive firms to expand.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

The Fed, China and Oil

| Jan. 01, 2016
My answers to three questions at the start of 2016 (from Chosun Ilbo, leading Korean newspaper):1. How do you analyze the recent US interest hike, and how will it influence the global economy in the coming year?The Fed had telegraphed its decision to raise the interest rate so far in advance and (by December) so clearly, that the policy change was already fully reflected in markets.  For example most of the substantial appreciation of the dollar since 2014 can be attributed to anticipation of the Fed tightening.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Gas Taxes and Oil Subsidies: Time for Reform

| Aug. 10, 2015
World oil prices have been highly volatile during the last decade.   Over the past year they have fallen more than 50%.Should we root for prices to go up, down, or stay the same?   The economic effects of falling oil prices are negative overall for oil-exporting countries, of course, and positive for oil-importing countries.  The US is now surprisingly close to energy self-sufficiency, so that the macroeconomic effects roughly net out to zero.  But what about effects that are not directly economic?   If we care about environmental and other externalities, should we want oil prices to go up or down?  Up, because that will discourage oil consumption?  Or down because that will discourage oil production?The answer is that countries should seek to do both: lower the price paid to oil producers and raise the price paid by oil consumers.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Currency and Commodity Markets in 2015

| Jan. 01, 2015
This is the third and final installment of an interview on the outlook for the New Year.Part 3. Forecasts for International Currency and Commodity MarketsQ – What is your forecast for the U.S. dollar? Do you think maintaining the strong dollar could ultimately help the U.S. economy, or hurt it?A – The appreciation of the dollar against the euro and the yen in 2014 was precisely what we should have expected from the economic fundamentals: the strengthening of the US recovery at the same time that the euro and Japanese economies have been slumping and the end of US monetary easing at the same time that the ECB and the Bank of Japan have redoubled their efforts at monetary stimulus.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Why Are Commodity Prices Falling?

| Dec. 15, 2014
Oil prices have plummeted 40% since June – good news for oil-importing countries, but bad news for Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and other oil exporters. Some attribute the price drop to the US shale-energy boom. Others cite OPEC’s failure to agree on supply restrictions.But that is not the whole story. The price of iron ore is down, too. So are gold, silver, and platinum prices. And the same is true of sugar, cotton, and soybean prices. In fact, most dollar commodity prices have fallen since the first half of the year.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Modi, Sisi & Jokowi: Three New Leaders Face the Challenge of Food & Fuel Subsidies

| Aug. 23, 2014
In few policy areas does good economics seem to conflict so dramatically with good politics as in the practice of subsidies to food and energy.  Economics textbooks explain that these subsidies are lose-lose policies. In the political world that can sound like an ivory tower abstraction.   But the issue of unaffordable subsidies happens to be front and center politically now, in a number of places around the world.   Three major new leaders in particular are facing this challenge:  Sisi in Egypt, Jokowi in Indonesia, and Modi in India.

Blog Post - Views on the Economy and the World

Fear of Fracking: The Problem with the Precautionary Principle

| Apr. 18, 2013
An amazing thing has happened over the last five years.   Against all expectations, American emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, since peaking in 2007, have fallen by 12%, back to 1995 levels.  (As of 2012. US Energy Information Agency).   How can this be?   The United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol to cut emissions of greenhouse gases below 1997 levels by 2012, as Europe did.Was the achievement a side-effect of reduced economic activity?   It is true that the US economy peaked in late 2007, the same time as emissions.