Many economists and market participants applauded the Federal Reserve’s decision in September 2012 to make monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and hold short-term interest rates at near zero until unemployment fell to 6.5 percent. Now, however, the issue of when to end bond buying is being debated both within and outside the Fed. Some think the central bank isn’t doing enough to deal with the still-fragile economy, while others argue that its actions will result in future price inflation. There is also growing concern that the rapid run-up in prices of stocks and other capital market assets reflects greater risk taking and more leverage and may be signs of yet another bubble.
There have been an extraordinary number of reactions to the paper we wrote with Thomas Herndon that critiqued the highly influential 2010 Reinhart and Rogoff paper “Growth in a Time of Debt.” Not surprisingly, these reactions have run the gamut. It is obviously impossible for us to respond to all the points raised. One of the most thoughtful critical responses was from Prof. James Hamilton of UC San Diego. Prof. Hamilton is an eminent econometrician. He posted his critique on his own blog site Econbrowser here. We are reposting here his critique of our work along with our response, below. Prof. Hamilton was kind enough to post our response on his site as well.
In 2010, two Harvard economists published an academic paper that spoke to the world’s biggest policy question: should we cut public spending to control the deficit or use the state to rekindle economic growth? Growth in a Time of Debt by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff has served as an important intellectual bulwark in support of austerity policies in the US and Europe. It has been cited by politicians ranging from Paul Ryan, the US congressman, to George Osborne, the UK chancellor. But we have shown that several critical findings advanced in this paper are wrong. So do we need to rethink austerity economics more broadly?
Updated May 9
In this new paper, Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin look carefully at the analysis underlying a cornerstone of government austerity plans: studies by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff which correlate national debt-to-GDP ratios over 90% with sharp declines in growth. Their critique has struck a live wire in the media. Some interesting highlights are:
Paul Krugman’s blog in The New York Times
Mike Konczal on RortyBomb
Moneybox blog on Slate
Wonkblog in the Wall Street Journal
FTAlphaville blog in the Financial Times
Dean Baker in The Guardian
Josh Bivens on the EPI blog
Jared Bernstein’s blog
Arin Dube on RortyBomb
Mary Bottari on PRWatch
and a sampling of the rest…
Are you concerned with unemployment and the effects of austerity on the very slow recovery? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), with the help of mainstream theory, has a solution. Just hike the natural rate of unemployment. Now there are less people involuntarily unemployed, and we are only about 2.2% above ‘full employment.’ If they hike it a bit more we are done, and John Taylor and Martin Feldstein will be correct in pressing the Fed to hike the rate of interest.