More Expansionary FIscal Policy Is Needed: The Only Question Is Whether for a Short-Term Full Employment Attainment or a Medium-Term Full-Employment Maintenance Purpose

J. Bradford DeLong: On Twitter:

If the Federal Reserve wants to have the ammunition to fight the next recession when it happens, it needs the short-term safe nominal interest rate to be 5% or more when the recession hits. I believe that is very unlikely to happen without substantial fiscal expansion. No, at least in the world that Janet Yellen sees, “fiscal policy is not needed to provide stimulus to get us back to full employment.” But fiscal policy stimulus is needed to create a situation in which full employment can be maintained. It would be a rash economist indeed who would forecast a short-term safe nominal interest rate above 3% when the time for the next loosening cycle arrives:

3 Month Treasury Bill Secondary Market Rate FRED St Louis Fed

Thus if we do not shift to a more expansionary fiscal policy–and the higher neutral rate of interest that it brings–now, what do we envision will happen when the next recession arrives? Do we trust that congress and the president will then understand and react appropriately in a timely fashion and at the right scale to deal with the slump in aggregate demand?

Once again, it would be a very rash economist who would forecast that. An FOMC that does not press strongly for more expansionary fiscal policy now is an FOMC that is adopting a policy that threatens to make life very difficult indeed for their successors between two and six years from now.

And, of course, there is the chance–I see it as a substantial chance–that full employment is attained at a prime-age employment-to-population ratio of not 78% but 80%–or 81.5%. In that case, Janet Yellen is wrong to say that “fiscal policy is not needed to provide stimulus to get us back to full employment.”

Employment Population Ratio 25 54 years FRED St Louis Fed

December 14, 2016

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