Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Quotes of the day

When we win, it's a mandate. When they win, it's some sort of complicated message about bipartisanship and the tricky optics of modern governance.--Megan McArdle
The capital rules the SEC promulgated required firms to maintain specified levels of net liquid assets as a ratio of obligations to customers and creditors. This rule created the need for new capital on Wall Street. As the firms began to grow again, especially in the 1980s, they found it was impossible to raise the required capital through the partnership structure. The only alternative was the public market. That is how Wall Street began the long journey away from partnerships toward publicly held corporations on Wall Street. It wasn’t capitalism—it was the regulation of capitalism that sparked the transformation.--John Carney

Under the label of QE, the Fed will buy long-term government bonds, perhaps one trillion dollars or more, adding an equal amount of cash to the economy and to banks’ excess reserves. Expectation of this has lowered long-term interest rates, depressed the dollar’s international value, bid up the price of commodities and farm land and raised share prices. Like all bubbles, these exaggerated increases can rapidly reverse when interest rates return to normal levels. The greatest danger will then be to leveraged investors, including individuals who bought these assets with borrowed money and banks that hold long-term securities. These risks should be clear after the recent crisis driven by the bursting of asset price bubbles. Although the specific asset prices that are now rising are different from last time, the possibility of damaging declines when bubbles burst is worryingly similar.--Martin Feldstein

So which approach will be more successful: the British one that will sharply reduce government spending and fiscal deficits, or the American one that believes these deficits are necessary, and perhaps even too small, to get this country out of the recession? No one knows for sure about the short run effects on their respective economies of these very different approaches. Perhaps, and this is only a “perhaps” that I am by no means persuaded of, the British approach will cause more short-run harm to employment and GDP than will the American approach. However, I am convinced that the British way is a far better way to improve the long-term growth prospects of an economy. That is, reductions in the bloated levels of government spending and fiscal deficits will do much more to stimulate the longer-term growth of the British economy, mainly by encouraging private investment and innovation, than will the present American approach.--Gary Becker

Using new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and considering developments at both the federal and the state and local level, we find that the government purchases multiplicand through the 2nd quarter of 2010 has been only 2 percent of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. This increase in government purchases has occurred mainly at the federal level. While states and localities received substantial grants under ARRA, state and local governments have not increased their purchases of goods and services. Instead they reduced borrowing and increased transfer payments. These findings explain why, regardless of the size of a government purchases multiplier, changes in government purchases have had no material effect on the growth of GDP since the time ARRA was enacted. The implication is not that ARRA has been too small, but rather that it failed to increase government consumption expenditures and infrastructure spending as many had predicted from such a large package. A consideration of the counterfactual event that there had not been an ARRA supports the hypothesis that state and local government borrowing would have been higher and purchases would have been about the same in the absence of ARRA.--John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor

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