Smil og vær glad | Høydepunkter fra Bernankes snarvisitt til Kongressen (og han ser ikke lyst på ting.)

For dere som har The Federal Reserve liggende i favoritter, gratulerer din nerd. For alle andre tar vi en titt på Bernanke sin siste tale, nemlig den til Kongressen idag, 4. oktober. Han starter med det positive i første paragraf:

There have been some positive developments: The functioning of financial markets and the banking system in the United States has improved significantly. Manufacturing production in the United States has risen nearly 15 percent since its trough, driven substantially by growth in exports; indeed, the U.S. trade deficit has been notably lower recently than it was before the crisis, reflecting in part the improved competitiveness of U.S. goods and services. Business investment in equipment and software has continued to expand, and productivity gains in some industries have been impressive. Nevertheless, it is clear that, overall, the recovery from the crisis has been much less robust than we had hoped.

Og der var det over. 110 ord med positivitet, og velkommen til murveggen.


Consumer behavior has both reflected and contributed to the slow pace of recovery. Households have been very cautious in their spending decisions, as declines in house prices and in the values of financial assets have reduced household wealth, and many families continue to struggle with high debt burdens or reduced access to credit. Probably the most significant factor depressing consumer confidence, however, has been the poor performance of the job market.


Over the summer, private payrolls rose by only about 100,000 jobs per month on average–half of the rate posted earlier in the year.1 Meanwhile, state and local governments have continued to shed jobs, as they have been doing for more than two years. With these weak gains in employment, the unemployment rate has held close to 9 percent since early this year. Moreover, recent indicators, including new claims for unemployment insurance and surveys of hiring plans, point to the likelihood of more sluggish job growth in the period ahead.


The housing sector has been a significant driver of recovery from most recessions in the United States since World War II. This time, however, a number of factors–including the overhang of distressed and foreclosed properties, tight credit conditions for builders and potential homebuyers, and the large number of «underwater» mortgages (on which homeowners owe more than their homes are worth)–have left the rate of new home construction at only about one-third of its average level in recent decades.


In the financial sphere, as I noted, banking and financial conditions in the United States have improved significantly since the depths of the crisis. Nonetheless, financial stresses persist. Credit remains tight for many households, small businesses, and residential and commercial builders, in part because weaker balance sheets and income prospects have increased the perceived credit risk of many potential borrowers. We have also recently seen bouts of elevated volatility and risk aversion in financial markets, partly in reaction to fiscal concerns both here and abroad. Domestically, the controversy during the summer regarding the raising of the federal debt ceiling and the downgrade of the U.S. long-term credit rating by one of the major rating agencies contributed to the financial turbulence that occurred around that time.

Gjeld og Europa:

Outside the United States, concerns about sovereign debt in Greece and other euro-zone countries, as well as about the sovereign debt exposures of the European banking system, have been a significant source of stress in global financial markets. European leaders are strongly committed to addressing these issues, but the need to obtain agreement among a large number of countries to put in place necessary backstops and to address the sources of the fiscal problems has slowed the process of finding solutions.

Den amerikanske staten:

Another factor likely to weigh on the U.S. recovery is the increasing drag being exerted by the government sector. Notably, state and local governments continue to tighten their belts by cutting spending and employment in the face of ongoing budgetary pressures, while the future course of federal fiscal policies remains quite uncertain.


Prices of many commodities, notably oil, increased sharply earlier this year, as I noted, leading to higher retail gasoline and food prices. In addition, producers of other goods and services were able to pass through some of their higher input costs to their customers. Separately, the global supply disruptions associated with the disaster in Japan put upward pressure on prices of motor vehicles. As a result of these influences, inflation picked up during the first half of this year; over that period, the price index for personal consumption expenditures rose at an annual rate of about 3-1/2 percent, compared with an average of less than 1-1/2 percent over the preceding two years.

As the FOMC anticipated, however, inflation has begun to moderate as these transitory influences wane. In particular, the prices of oil and many other commodities have either leveled off or have come down from their highs, and the step-up in automobile production has started to reduce pressures on the prices of cars and light trucks. Importantly, the higher rate of inflation experienced so far this year does not appear to have become ingrained in the economy. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable according to surveys of households and economic forecasters, and the five-year-forward measure of inflation compensation derived from yields on nominal and inflation-protected Treasury securities suggests that inflation expectations among investors may have moved lower recently. In addition to the stability of longer-term inflation expectations, the substantial amount of resource slack in U.S. labor and product markets should continue to restrain inflationary pressures.

Merk at Bernanke bruker to hele paragrafer til å adressere inflasjon.


I would submit that, in setting tax and spending policies for now and the future, policymakers should consider at least four key objectives. One crucial objective is to achieve long-run fiscal sustainability. The federal budget is clearly not on a sustainable path at present. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, formed as part of the Budget Control Act, is charged with achieving $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction over the next 10 years on top of the spending caps enacted this summer. Accomplishing that goal would be a substantial step; however, more will be needed to achieve fiscal sustainability.

Dette er det langsiktige argumentet for budsjettene, i neste paragraf kommer det kortsiktige:

A second important objective is to avoid fiscal actions that could impede the ongoing economic recovery. These first two objectives are certainly not incompatible, as putting in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term does not preclude attending to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term. Third, fiscal policy should aim to promote long-term growth and economic opportunity. As a nation, we need to think carefully about how federal spending priorities and the design of the tax code affect the productivity and vitality of our economy in the longer term. Fourth, there is evident need to improve the process for making long-term budget decisions, to create greater predictability and clarity, while avoiding disruptions to the financial markets and the economy. In sum, the nation faces difficult and fundamental fiscal choices, which cannot be safely or responsibly postponed.

En liten digresjon, men en relevant en, hvis jeg kan. På CNN sine nettsider kunne du idag lese en artikkel skrevet av Alan Blinder (økonom i Clinton-adm.) og Glenn Hubbard (økonom i Bush-adm.) som tar for seg områder innen finanspolitikken hvor republikanere og demokrater kan enes.

Tilbake til Bernanke og den obligatoriske linjen i slutten av innlegget:

The Committee will continue to closely monitor economic developments and is prepared to take further action as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.

Siste paragraf:

Monetary policy can be a powerful tool, but it is not a panacea for the problems currently faced by the U.S. economy. Fostering healthy growth and job creation is a shared responsibility of all economic policymakers, in close cooperation with the private sector. Fiscal policy is of critical importance, as I have noted today, but a wide range of other policies–pertaining to labor markets, housing, trade, taxation, and regulation, for example–also have important roles to play. For our part, we at the Federal Reserve will continue to work to help create an environment that provides the greatest possible economic opportunity for all Americans.

(panacea = mirakelkur)

Som alltid er Bernankes innlegg litt som å lese i kaffegrut. Men noe av det som skiller seg ut er hans fokus på inflasjon og finanspolitikken. Inflasjonen en selvfølge, finanspolitikken et ønske om aksjon.

Dette er så nærme Bernanke har kommet til ‘få ut fingeren nå’ til Kongressen, noensinne:

[…], as putting in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term does not preclude attending to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term.

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