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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 27 febbraio 2013 alle ore 15:39.


NEW HAVEN – Apparently, policymakers at the Federal Reserve are having second thoughts about the wisdom of open-ended quantitative easing (QE). They should. Not only has this untested policy experiment failed to deliver an acceptable economic recovery; it has also heightened the risk of another crisis.

The of the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) speak to a simmering discontent: [M]any participants…expressed some concerns about potential costs and risks arising from further asset purchases. The concerns range from worries about the destabilizing ramifications of an exit strategy from QE to apprehension about capital losses on the Fed’s rapidly ballooning portfolio of securities (currently $3 trillion, and on its way to $4 trillion by the end of this year).

As serious as these concerns may be, they overlook what could well be the greatest flaw in the Fed’s unprecedented gambit: an emphasis on short-term tactics over longer-term strategy. Blindsided by the crisis of 2007-2008, the Fed has compounded its original misdiagnosis of the problem by repeatedly doubling down on tactical responses, with two rounds of QE preceding the current, open-ended iteration. The FOMC, drawing a false sense of comfort from the success of QE1 – a massive liquidity injection in the depths of a horrific crisis – mistakenly came to believe that it had found the right template for subsequent policy actions.

That approach might have worked had the US economy been afflicted by a cyclical disease – a temporary shortfall of aggregate demand. In that case, countercyclical policies – both fiscal and monetary – could eventually be expected to plug the demand hole and get the economy going again, just as Keynesians argue.

But the US is not suffering from a temporary, cyclical malady. It is afflicted by a very different disease: a protracted balance-sheet recession that continues to hobble American households, whose consumption accounts for roughly 70% of GDP. Two bubbles – property and credit – against which American families borrowed freely, have long since burst. But the aftershocks linger: Household-debt loads were still at 113% of disposable personal income in 2012 (versus 75% in the final three decades of the twentieth century), and the averaged just 3.9% last year (compared to 7.9% from 1970 to 1999).

Understandably fixated on balance-sheet repair, US consumers have not taken the bait from their monetary and fiscal authorities. Instead, they have cut back on spending. Gains in have averaged a mere 0.8% over the past five years – the most severe and protracted slowdown in consumer demand growth in the post-World War II era.

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