Before we get into this week’s outstanding Outside the Box, I want to comment on QE2 and the efforts by some Republican economists to urge legislators to get involved to stop it (see the front page of Monday’s Wall Street Journal). That pushes my comfort zone a little too much.
First, I am not a fan of QE2. Never have been. If it had been my call, I would have punted and told the guys in the Capital that the ball was in their court to get their fiscal house in order, because that is the main source of the problem. But Bernanke and the Fed felt they had to “do something,” to demonstrate they got the seriousness of the situation. If the only policy tool you have left is the hammer of printing money, then the world looks like a nail.
Second, I doubt it works. It might be interesting to see what would happen (theoretically) if they decided to print $3-4 trillion. Now that would have a (probably very negative) impact. But it would show up on the radar screen. I think $600 billion just gets soaked up in bank balance sheets, sloughed off to world emerging markets (that don’t want it) and other hot spots, with some drifting into the stock market. But does it increase real final demand, which is what the Keynesians are so seemingly desperate for? I doubt it. And I just don’t see the transmission mechanism for QE2 to produce new employment of any statistical significance.