Research Topics

Publications on Zero interest rate policy (ZIRP)

There are 7 publications for Zero interest rate policy (ZIRP).
  • Normalizing the Fed Funds Rate


    Working Paper No. 876 | October 2016
    The Fed’s Unjustified Rationale

    In December 2015, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) initiated the process of “normalization,” with the objective of gradually raising the federal funds rate back to “normal”—i.e., levels that are “neither expansionary nor contrary” and are consistent with the established 2 percent longer-run goal for the annual Personal Consumption Expenditures index and the estimated natural rate of unemployment. This paper argues that the urgency and rationale behind the rate hikes are not theoretically sound or empirically justified. Despite policymakers’ celebration of “substantial” labor market progress, we are still short some 20 million jobs. Further, there is no reason to believe that the current exceptionally low inflation rates are transitory. Quite the contrary: without significant fiscal efforts to restore the bargaining power of labor, inflation rates are expected to remain below the Federal Open Market Committee’s long-term goal for years to come. Also, there is little empirical evidence or theoretical support for the FRB’s suggestion that higher interest rates are necessary to counter “excessive” risk-taking or provide a more stable financial environment.

  • Is a Very High Public Debt a Problem?


    Working Paper No. 843 | July 2015

    This paper has two main objectives. The first is to propose a policy architecture that can prevent a very high public debt from resulting in a high tax burden, a government default, or inflation. The second objective is to show that government deficits do not face a financing problem. After these deficits are initially financed through the net creation of base money, the private sector necessarily realizes savings, in the form of either government bond purchases or, if a default is feared, “acquisitions” of new money.

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    Author(s):
    Pedro Leao

  • Why Raising Rates May Speed the Recovery


    Policy Note 2014/6 | December 2014
    Criticisms of the Federal Reserve’s “unconventional” monetary policy response to the Great Recession have been of two types. On the one hand, the tripling in the size of the Fed’s balance sheet has led to forecasts of rampant inflation in the belief that the massive increase in excess reserves might be spent on goods and services. And even worse, this would represent an attempt by government to inflate away its high levels of debt created to support the solvency of financial institutions after the September 2008 collapse of asset prices. On the other hand, it is argued that the near-zero short-term interest rate policy and measures to flatten the yield curve (quantitative easing plus "Operation Twist") distort the allocation and pricing in the credit and capital markets and will underwrite another asset price bubble, even as deflation prevails in product markets.   Both lines of criticism have led to calls for a return to a more conventional policy stance, and yet there is widespread agreement that this would have a negative impact on the economy, at least in the short-term. However, since the analyses behind both lines of criticism are mistaken, it is probable that the analyses of the impact of the risks of return to more normal policies are also in error.  
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  • Liquidity Preference and the Entry and Exit to ZIRP and QE


    Policy Note 2014/5 | November 2014

    The Fed’s zero interest policy rate (ZIRP) and quantitative easing (QE) policies failed to restore growth to the US economy as expected (i.e., increased investment spending à la John Maynard Keynes or from an expanded money supply à la Ben Bernanke / Milton Friedman). Senior Scholar Jan Kregel analyzes some of the arguments as to why these policies failed to deliver economic recovery. He notes a common misunderstanding of Keynes’s liquidity preference theory in the debate, whereby it is incorrectly linked to the recent implementation of ZIRP. Kregel also argues that Keynes’s would have implemented QE policies quite differently, by setting the bid and ask rate and letting the market determine the volume of transactions. This policy note both clarifies Keynes’s theoretical insights regarding unconventional monetary policies and provides a substantive analysis of some of the reasons why central bank policies have failed to achieve their stated goals.

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  • Wright Patman’s Proposal to Fund Government Debt at Zero Interest Rates


    Policy Note 2014/2 | February 2014
    Lessons for the Current Debate on the US Debt Limit
    In 1943, Congress faced unpredictably large war expenditures exceeding the prevailing debt limit. Congressional debates from that time contain an insightful discussion of how the increased expenditures could be financed, dealing with practical and theoretical issues that seem to be missing from current debates. In the '43 debate, Representative Wright Patman proposed that the Treasury should create a nonnegotiable zero interest bond that would be placed directly with the Federal Reserve Banks. As the deadline for raising the US federal government debt limit approaches, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel examines the implications of Patman's proposal. Among the lessons: that the debt can be financed at any rate the government desires without losing control over interest rates as a tool of monetary policy. The problem of financing the debt is not the issue. The question is whether the size of the deficit to be financed is compatible with the stable expansion of the economy. 
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  • Central Banking in an Era of Quantitative Easing


    Working Paper No. 684 | September 2011

    This paper reviews the key insights of Hyman P. Minsky in arguing why finance cannot be left to free markets, drawing on the East Asian development experience. The paper suggests that Minsky’s more complete stock-flow consistent analytical framework, by putting finance at the center of analysis of economic and financial system stability, is much more pragmatic and realistic compared to the prevailing neoclassical analysis. Drawing upon the East Asian experience, the paper finds that Minsky’s analysis has a system-wide slant and correctly identifies Big Government and investment as driving employment and profits, respectively. Specifically, his two-price system can aid policymakers in correcting the systemic vulnerability posed by asset bubbles. By concentrating on cash-flow analysis and funding behaviors, Minsky’s analysis provides the link between cash flows and changes in balance sheets, and therefore can help identify unsustainable Ponzi processes. Overall, his multidimensional analytical framework is found to be more relevant than ever in understanding the Asian crisis, the 2008 global financial crisis, and policymaking in the postcrisis world.

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    Author(s):
    Andrew Sheng

  • Was Keynes’s Monetary Policy, à Outrance in the Treatise, a Forerunnner of ZIRP and QE? Did He Change His Mind in the General Theory?


    Policy Note 2011/4 | May 2011

    At the end of 1930, as the 1929 US stock market crash was starting to have an impact on the real economy in the form of falling commodity prices, falling output, and rising unemployment, John Maynard Keynes, in the concluding chapters of his Treatise on Money, launched a challenge to monetary authorities to take “deliberate and vigorous action” to reduce interest rates and reverse the crisis. He argues that until “extraordinary,” “unorthodox” monetary policy action “has been taken along such lines as these and has failed, need we, in the light of the argument of this treatise, admit that the banking system can not, on this occasion, control the rate of investment, and, therefore, the level of prices.”

    The “unorthodox” policies that Keynes recommends are a near-perfect description of the Japanese central bank’s experiment with a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) in the 1990s and the Federal Reserve’s experiment with ZIRP, accompanied by quantitative easing (QE1 and QE2), during the recent crisis. These experiments may be considered a response to Keynes’s challenge, and to provide a clear test of his belief in the power of monetary policy to counter financial crisis. That response would appear to be an unequivocal No.

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