Publications on Government policy and regulation
Expansion of Federal Reserve Authority in the Recent Financial Crisis Raises Questions about Governance
One-Pager No. 36 | January 2013
Several years before the onset of the recent financial crisis, ex – Federal Reserve Board Member Lawrence Meyer wrote that the Fed “is often called the most powerful institution in America,” its key decisions made by 19 people whose names are known by few, meeting regularly behind closed doors. Bernard Shull examines the origin and nature of Fed authority and independence, and reviews the impact of Dodd-Frank on our central bank. His conclusion? The new constraints placed on the Fed are modest at best, and its continued expansion inexorably raises questions of governance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Bernard Shull
Working Paper No. 742 | December 2012
The Economic Consequences of Parochial Policy
Financial market crises with the threat of a subsequent debt-deflation depression have occurred with increasing regularity in the United States from 1980 through the present. Almost reflexively, when confronted with such circumstances, US institutions and the policymakers that run them have responded in a fashion that has consistently thwarted debt-deflation-depression dynamics. It is true that these “remedies,” as they succeeded, increasingly contributed to a moral hazard in US and global financial markets that culminated with the crisis that began in 2007. Nonetheless, the straightforward steps taken by established institutions enabled the United States to derail depression dynamics, while European 1930s-style austerity proved as ineffective as it was almost a century ago. Europe’s, and specifically Germany’s, steadfast refusal to embrace the US recipe has fostered mushrooming economic hardship on the continent. The situation is gruesome, and any serious student of economic history had to have known, given European policy commitments, that it was destined to turn out this way.
It is easy to understand why misguided policies drove initial European responses. Economic theory has frowned on Keynes. Economic successes, especially in Germany, offered up the wrong lessons, and enduring angst about inflation was a major distraction. At the outset, the wrong medicine for the wrong disease was to be expected.
What is much harder to fathom is why such a poisonous elixir continues to be proffered amid widespread evidence that the patient is dying. Deconstructing cognitive dissonance in other spheres provides an explanation. Not surprisingly, knowing what one wants to happen at home completely informs one’s claims concerning what will be good for one’s neighbors. In such a construct, the last best hope for Europe is ECB President Mario Draghi. He seems to be able to speak German and yet act European.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Robert J. Barbera Gerald Holtham
Working Paper No. 735 | November 2012
The Federal Reserve has been criticized for not preventing the risky behavior of large financial companies prior to the financial crisis of 2008–09, for approving mergers that aggravated the “too big to fail” problem, and for its substantial contribution to bailouts when their risk management failed. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, in attempting to diminish financial instability and eliminate too-big-to-fail policies, has established a new regulatory framework and laid out new responsibilities for the Federal Reserve. In doing so, it appears to address criticisms of the central bank by constricting its autonomy. The law, however, has also extended the Federal Reserve’s supervisory authority and expanded its capacity to exercise regulatory control over its extended domain. This new authority is in addition to the augmentation of its monetary powers over the past several years.
This paper reviews and evaluates both constraints imposed on the Federal Reserve by the Dodd-Frank Act and the expansion of Federal Reserve authority. It finds that the constraints are unlikely to have much impact, but the expansion of authority constitutes a significant increase in power and influence. The paper concludes that the expansion of Federal Reserve authority invites questions about the organizational design and governance of the central bank, and its traditional autonomy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Bernard Shull
Working Paper No. 688 | September 2011
Greece’s Debt Crisis in Context
According to author and journalist C. J. Polychroniou, Greece was unfit to join the euro: its entry was orchestrated by fabricating the true state of the country’s fiscal condition, and its subsequent “growth performance” rested upon heavy state borrowing and European Union (EU) transfers. Moreover, the Greek economic crisis is also a political and moral crisis, as financial scandals and corruption have been major sources of wealth creation.
The EU and International Monetary Fund bailout plan (May 2010), which includes a structural adjustment program with harsh austerity measures, has been a social and economic catastrophe. Such policy ensures that Greece will default and be forced to exit the euro, says Polychroniou, but compelling Greek citizens to take charge of their own economic problems and national faults may be the best scenario. Extreme EU neoliberal policies also increase the risk of the eurozone’s dissolution.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou