At the AEI, James Pethokoukis just put out a comment/review of Robert Hetzel´s book: The Great Recession – Market Failure or Policy Failure?
Oh, the downturn first started with “correction of an excess in the housing stock and a sharp increase in energy prices” — the housing bust and the oil shock. Indeed, those two things were enough, in Hetzel’s view, to cause a “moderate recession” beginning in December 2007.
But only a moderate one. It was the Fed’s monetary policy miscues after the downturn began that turned a run-of-the-mill downturn into a once-in-a century disaster. Hetzel:
A moderate recession became a major recession in summer 2008 when the [Federal Open Market Committee] ceased lowering the federal funds rate while the economy deteriorated. The central empirical fact of the 2008-2009 recession is that the severe declines in output that in appeared in the [second quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009] … had already been locked in by summer 2008.
Not only did the Fed leave rates alone between April 2008 and October 2008 as the economy deteriorated, but the FOMC “effectively tightened monetary policy in June by pushing up the expected path of the federal funds rate through the hawkish statements of its members. In May 2008, federal funds futures had been predicting the rate to remain at 2% through November. By mid-June, that forecast had risen to 2.5%.
And it wasn’t just the U.S. central bank. Hetzel thinks all the major central banks — the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, sat on their hands as the global economy weakened. “The fact that the severe contraction in output began in all these countries in 2008:Q2 is more readily explained by a common restrictive monetary policy than by contagion from the then still-mild U.S. recession, Hetzel writes in a Fed paper that inspired the book. “Restrictive monetary policy rather than the deleveraging in financial markets that had begun in August 2007 offers a more direct explanation of the intensification of the recession that began in the summer of 2008. Irony abounds.”
The charts below illustrate Hetzel´s “common restrictive monetary policy” argument, with major Central Banks simultaneously “dropping the spending ball”!
HT: David Lavey