We believe the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called “quantitative easing”) should be reconsidered and discontinued. We do not believe such a plan is necessary or advisable under current circumstances. The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.The Fed spokeswoman responded.
We subscribe to your statement in the Washington Post on November 4 that “the Federal Reserve cannot solve all the economy’s problems on its own.” In this case, we think improvements in tax, spending and regulatory policies must take precedence in a national growth program, not further monetary stimulus.
We disagree with the view that inflation needs to be pushed higher, and worry that another round of asset purchases, with interest rates still near zero over a year into the recovery, will distort financial markets and greatly complicate future Fed efforts to normalize monetary policy.
The Fed’s purchase program has also met broad opposition from other central banks and we share their concerns that quantitative easing by the Fed is neither warranted nor helpful in addressing either U.S. or global economic problems.
As the Chairman has said, the Federal Reserve has Congressionally-mandated objectives to help promote both increased employment and price stability. In light of persistently weak job creation and declining inflation, the Federal Open Market Committee’s recent actions reflect those mandates. The Federal Reserve will regularly review its program in light of incoming information and is prepared to make adjustments as necessary. The Federal Reserve is committed to both parts of its dual mandate and will take all measures to keep inflation low and stable as well as promote growth in employment. In particular, the Fed has made all necessary preparations and is confident that it has the tools to unwind these policies at the appropriate time. The Chairman has also noted that the Federal Reserve does not believe it can solve the economy’s problems on its own. That will take time and the combined efforts of many parties, including the central bank, Congress, the administration, regulators, and the private sector.Greg Mankiw, who also has ties to Republicans, explains why he did not sign (“QE2”).
My view is that QE2 is a modestly good idea. I say it is a "good idea" because, like Ben Bernanke, I am more worried at the moment about Japanese-style deflation and stagnation than I am about excessive inflation. By lowering long-term real interest rates below where they otherwise would be, QE2 should help expand aggregate demand. I include the modifier "modestly" because I don't expect these actions to have a very large effect.
Moreover, I do see some potential downsides. In particular, the Fed is making its portfolio riskier. By borrowing short and investing long, the Fed is in some ways becoming the hedge fund of last resort. If future events require higher interest rates, the Fed will end up making losses on its portfolio. And even if doesn't recognize these losses (by not marking to market), it could end up paying more interest on newly expanded reserves than it is earning on its newly acquired portfolio of long bonds. Such a cash-flow deficit could potentially undermine the Fed's political independence (which is already not very popular in some circles). Yet if the Fed tries to avoid these losses by failing to raise rates when needed, inflation could indeed become a problem down the road. I trust the team at the Fed enough to think they will avoid that mistake..
So, in the end, I judge QE2 to be a small but risky step in the right direction.