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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 22, 2010 / 8 Nissan 5770

The maestro's misconceptions

By Robert J. Samuelson




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Rarely has a public figure's reputation suffered a reversal as dramatic as Alan Greenspan's. When he left the Federal Reserve in early 2006 after nearly 19 years as chairman, he was hailed as the "maestro" and credited with steering the country through numerous economic shoals. Four years later, his policies are widely blamed for fostering the 2007-09 financial crisis. Now Greenspan is offering an elaborate "not guilty" defense.

The indictment of Greenspan is straightforward. Lax regulation by the Fed of financial markets encouraged dubious subprime mortgages. Easy credit engineered by the Fed further inflated the housing "bubble." Greenspan's rebuttal comes in a 14,000-word article for the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, a journal from the think tank of the same name.

Greenspan is in part contrite. He admits to trusting private markets too much, as he had in previous congressional testimony. He concedes lapses in regulation. But mainly, he pleads innocent and makes three arguments.

First, the end of the Cold War inspired an economic euphoria that ultimately caused the housing boom. Capitalism had triumphed. China and other developing countries became major trading nations. From the fall of the Berlin Wall to 2005, the number of workers engaged in global trade rose by 500 million. Competition suppressed inflation. Interest rates around the world declined; as this occurred, housing prices rose in many countries (not just the United States) because borrowers could afford to pay more.

Second, the Fed's easy credit didn't cause the housing bubble because home prices are affected by long-term mortgage rates, not the short-term rates that the Fed influences. From early 2001 to June 2003, the Fed cut the overnight federal funds rate from 6.5 to 1 percent. The idea was to prevent a brutal recession following the "tech bubble" -- a policy Greenspan still supports. The trouble arose when the Fed started raising the federal funds rate in mid-2004 and mortgage rates didn't follow, as they usually did. What unexpectedly kept rates down, Greenspan says, were huge flows of foreign money, generated partially by trade surpluses, into U.S. bonds and mortgages.

Letter from JWR publisher


Third, regulators aren't superhuman. They can't anticipate most crises and even miss some massive frauds when evidence is dumped in their laps: Bernie Madoff is Exhibit A.

Given regulators' shortcomings, Greenspan favors tougher capital requirements for banks. These would provide a larger cushion to absorb losses and would bolster market confidence against serial financial failures. Before the crisis, banks' shareholder equity was about 10 percent: $1 in shareholders' money for every $10 of bank loans and investments. Greenspan would go as high as 14 percent.

Up to a point, Greenspan's defense is convincing. The Fed was a prisoner of large forces that it didn't completely understand or control. The anti-Greenspan backlash is heavily political. It satisfies the post-crisis clamor for scapegoats. But his explanation also misreads what happened.

It was not the end of the Cold War, as Greenspan asserts, that triggered the economic boom. It was the Fed's defeat of double-digit inflation in the early 1980s. Since the late 1960s, high inflation had destabilized the economy. Once it fell -- from 14 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 1983 -- interest rates slowly dropped. This promoted economic expansion and boosted stocks and housing prices. By 1988, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, mortgage rates had already dropped from 15 percent in 1982 to 9 percent. By 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed, the stock market had already tripled since 1982.

Similarly, China's economic liberalization began in 1978, well before the Cold War's end; India's liberalization was likewise largely independent of the Soviet Union's fate. What bolstered the global prestige of the "market model" was the renewed vigor of the American economy, which was a dividend of inflation's fall. Governments elsewhere also adopted anti-inflation policies.

Greenspan's complicity in the financial crisis stemmed from succeeding too much, not doing too little. Recessions were infrequent and mild. The 1987 stock market crash, the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and the burst "tech bubble" did not lead to deep slumps. The notion spread that the Fed could counteract almost any economic upset. Greenspan, once a critic of "fine-tuning" the business cycle, effectively became a convert. The world seemed less risky. The problem of "moral hazard" -- meaning that if people think they're insulated from risk, they'll take more chances -- applied not just to banks but to all of society: bankers, regulators, economists, ordinary borrowers and consumers.

"We had been lulled into a state of complacency," Greenspan writes in passing, failing to draw the full implication. Which is: Too much economic success creates the seeds of its undoing. Extended prosperity bred overconfidence that led to self-defeating behavior. Neither Greenspan nor any other major economist has yet wrestled with this daunting contradiction.

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03/15/10: Obama's illusions of cost-control
01/14/10: In the aftermath of the Great Recession
12/29/09: Democracy's demolition derby
11/30/09: Bipartisan threats against the institution that saved America from depression
09/14/09: Give It to Us Straight
09/07/09: Bad Future for Jobs?
08/24/09: A Rail Boondoggle, Moving at High
08/10/09: Championing the Status Quo
08/03/09: We'll remain in denial, prisoners of wishful thinking, until the fateful reckoning arrives in the unimagined future
07/27/09: Obama's misleading medicine
07/13/09: Americans' self-indulgence hurts us
07/06/09: Economists out to lunch
06/29/09: Panics ‘R’ Us!
06/08/09: Flirting with deflation or inflation? Now the economy might be at risk of both
05/25/09: A ‘crisis’ America needs
05/18/09: Will somebody finally say that Obama is irresponsibly mortgaging our future?
05/04/09: The Bias Against Oil And Gas
04/27/09: Environmentalists maximize the dangers of global warming while pretending we can conquer it at virtually no cost
04/20/09: Our Depression Obsession
03/23/09: Geithner treads a line between financial paralysis and populist resentment
03/23/09: American Capitalism Besieged
01/06/09: The limits of pump priming
12/29/08: Humbled By Our Ignorance
07/31/08: The homeownership obsession
07/24/08: A Depression? Hardly
07/17/08: Why isn't globalization making the interconnected world more stable?



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