Tag Archives: inflation

Japan’s Consumption Tax: Take it Slow and Steady

Japan’s consumption tax rate is scheduled to increase substantially in April (from 5% to 8%).  The motive is to address the long-term problem of very high debt.  (Takatoshi Ito has stated the case in favor of the tax increase.)  Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has apparently decided to go ahead with it.   Many observers, however, are worried that the loss in purchasing power resulting from the sharp increase in the sales tax rate will send the Japanese economy back into recession.

It is very reminiscent of April 1997.   I remember Larry Summers, who was then Undersecretary of the US Treasury, repeatedly warning the Japanese government that if it went ahead with the consumption tax hike that was scheduled for that date, Japan’s economy would go back into recession.  I was in the US government then too.  As the date drew near, I asked Summers why he persisted in offering Tokyo this unwanted advice, given that the prime minister of the day was clearly locked into the policy politically.    Summers told me that he knew he was unlikely to change their minds, but that he wanted to be sure the Japanese would realize their mistake when they went ahead with the tax increase and his prediction subsequently came true – as it did.

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Nominal GDP Targeting is Left, Right?

The recent surge in interest in Nominal GDP Targeting, as an alternative to money targeting or inflation targeting if the central bank is to commit to a nominal target of some sort, has prompted some pushback.   This is not surprising.  But one of the responses is most peculiar.  This is the allegation (1) that the surge comes from liberals opportunistically adopting an idea that was originally proposed by conservatives, and (2) that they will not stick with this “fad” in the longer run because it is only designed to fit current circumstances of high unemployment and low output.   Remarkably, every component of this argument is wrong.

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The FOMC is Right to Stay the Course on QE2

            The Fed has come in for a surprising amount of criticism since its decision in the fall of 2010 to launch a new round of monetary easing — Quantitative Easing 2.  Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are right not to give in to these attacks.

            Critiques seem to be of four sorts. (Some are mutually exclusive.)

            1)  “QE is weird.”    Quantitative Easing entails the central bank buying a somewhat wider range of securities than the traditional short-term Treasury bills that are the usual focus of the Fed’s open market operations.    This has been a bold strategy, which nobody would have predicted 3 or 4 years ago.   But it has been appropriate to the equally unexpected financial crisis and recession.    Some who find QE alarmingly non-standard may not realize that other central banks do this sort of thing, and that the US authorities themselves did it in the more distant past.    It is amusing to recall that when Ben Bernanke was first appointed Chairman, some reacted “He is a fine economist, but he doesn’t have the market experience of a Wall Street type.”  The irony is that nobody who had spent his or her career on Wall Street would have had the relevant experience to deal with the shocks of the last three years, since none of them were there in the 1930s.  But as an economic historian, Bernanke had just the broader perspective that was needed.   Thank heaven he did.

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The Pot Again Calls the Kettle Red: Republicans, Democrats, the Fed and QE2

     Some conservatives are attacking current U.S. monetary policy as being too expansionary, as likely to lead to excessive inflation and debauchment of the currency.   The Weekly Standard is promoting a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that urges a reversal of its policy of QE2, its new round of monetary easing. The letter is signed by a list of conservatives, most of whom are well-known Republican economists, some associated with political candidates.  Apparently the driving force is David Malpass, who was an official in the Reagan Treasury, and he is taking out newspaper ads later this week.  This follows similar attacks on the Fed by politicians Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan

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Prospects for Inflation outside America – Guest Post from Menzie Chinn

Menzie Chinn, Prof. of Economics at University of Wisconsin, is guest posting this week:

I want to thank Jeff Frankel for the opportunity to be a guest writer on his blog.

A lot of attention has been devoted to how oil price and food price shocks have affected the US economy, both along the output and price dimensions. A general presumption has been that as long as inflation expectations remain well anchored, then one need not worry about 1970’s style stagflation (recession is another matter).

However, there are many places in the world where inflation expectations are not well anchored. Or at least we can’t tell if they’re well anchored or not. Figure 1 presents data for several key groups (using the IMF classifications): Industrial countries, LDCs excluding oil exporters, oil exporters and developing Asia.

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