Sunday, December 5, 2010

Now, That's an Economic Message

When I read the "Economic View" column in today's NY Times:
Uncertainty is likely holding back the recovery. But its sources are far more fundamental than the tax and environmental issues that typically top the list of complaints. And the solution is certainly not for the government to do less. Rather, it needs to do much more...

Wall Street analysts often cite possible government regulations on the environment as another source of damaging uncertainty. But as with the deficit, inaction could be far more damaging than action. Climate change and dependence on foreign oil are problems that won’t go away on their own. Tabling plans to deal with them doesn’t make it easier for companies to plan and invest; it makes it harder.

Until businesses and communities know the costs and incentives for developing renewable energy, nuclear power and natural gas — and whether we will address climate change through prices or direct regulation — it will be very hard to invest in new power sources and related industrial technologies.

The deepest and most destructive uncertainty we face centers on the overall health of the economy and its prospects for growth. Unlike other postwar recessions that were caused by tight monetary policy and high interest rates, the recent downturn resulted from the bursting of a housing bubble and a financial crisis. Because we are in largely uncharted territory, figuring out how and when the economy will recover is much harder than usual...

How do we resolve uncertainty about future growth? The Federal Reserve, Congress and the president need to reaffirm that they will do whatever it takes to restore the economy to full health. They could take a lesson from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who declared in his 1933 inaugural address that he would treat the task of putting people back to work “as we would treat the emergency of a war.” 
I think: now that is exactly the kind of message we need to hear from the White House.  And then I see that the column was written by Christina Romer, who was, until very recently, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors....

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