The Fed Can Suffocate The Economy Under NGDPLT Too

A Benjamin Cole post

Recently there has been a hubbub in Market Monetarist circles that prominent Democratic economist Larry Summers, generally a Keynesian type, tipped his hat to nominal GDP level targeting, or NGDPLT.

Well, at least in preference to inflation targeting or IT.

Said Summers at latest report, “I didn’t quite endorse NGDP targeting. I said that I would prefer a shift to NGDP targeting to a shift up in inflation targets.”

Why The Summerian Reservation?

That Summers endorsement of NGDPLT was hesitant and oblique may not be surprising. He is, after all, a Keynesian, and believes in federal deficit-spending.

But Summers may also have entirely human and sensible reason for his backhanded support of NDGPLT—that is, a central bank can just as well suffocate an economy under NGDPLT as under IT.

Indeed, the U.S. Federal Reserve has kept the U.S. economy growing at a fairly steady nominal rate since 2008. The problem is, the economy is blue in the face from monetary asphyxiation.

Remembering Milton

Forgotten today is the Milton Friedman of October 1992, when CPI inflation was 3.2%, and real GDP was expanding at about 4.0%.

Yet the title of Friedman’s October 1992 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, after the Fed had dropped interest rates from 10% to 3%? It was: Too Tight For A Strong Recovery

That 1992 Friedman op-ed speaks worlds about the inflation-obsessed state of modern economists.

Market Monetarists of 2015

Yet some Market Monetarists recommend straitjacket nominal growth rates, succumbing to the present-day peevish fixation that inflation—even moderate inflation—cannot be endured.

We can hope someone will further flesh-out Summers’ sentiments regarding NGDPLT. But whatever Summers’ take, I hope Market Monetarists  do not mimic the inflation-nutters.

It doesn’t really matter if inflation is 1% or 4%.

What matters is robust real growth.

2 thoughts on “The Fed Can Suffocate The Economy Under NGDPLT Too

  1. My guess is that, in the end, nobody is really going to be happy with whatever the outcome of MM-influenced policy discussions because there is likely no way to defeat the inflation wives-tales that are ingrained in peoples’ psyches and the assorted politics revolving around them. By the time the discussion gets that far, it doesn’t matter what makes logical sense or the apparent truth of the matter at hand.

    My hope regarding whatever may come of Summers’ involvement is for some assurance that the Great Recession will never happen again. We don’t have that now; and once we do, I will be on the way toward being satisfied when the powers that be draw a really wide, bright red line with teeth saying. ” We do not do cruel monetary policy here.” The only other thing I would ask as part of that compromise is that any members of the Bernanke Fed left behind are shown the door, up to and including Yellen. They might be a mighty fine group of people, only a mighty fine group of people whose talents lie elsewhere.

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