A Supply Side Approach to the Crisis

Yesterday I pointed out that credit is still robust.  Growth rates are declining, however, and many people say the real crunch is around the corner.  Thus, today I want to suggest a new approach to dealing with the crisis that will have benefits regardless of how the crisis unfolds.

I see the key issue as follows: Banks bridge the gap between savers and firms.  We want to keep capital flowing to firms even when some of the bridges collapse.  One approach tries to prop up the collapsed bridges, a second approach tries to route funds across substitute bridges.  A third approach is to increase the flow pressure – in other words, I suggest a temporary but large stimulus to savings.

I suggest that for the next 12 months contributions to an IRA account will never be taxed.  We can modify this in various ways to cap contributions at a certain level etc.  We can even make the proposal progressive – for the next 12 months contributions to an IRA account will never be taxed and the government will match $1 for every $10 saved for anyone with income below a certain threshold.  The main idea is to increase savings.

The increase in savings will help deal with our current problems by offsetting any credit crunch.  (Some of the savings will also help to recapitalize banks.)  In addition, the U.S. needs a higher savings rate regardless.  During the 1990s as measured savings rates declined to zero commentators argued that rising asset values compensated.  Well asset values are now falling so true savings are negative – thus we need to increased savings.

A big benefit of this proposal – lower taxes, higher savings and a savings bonus to those with lower incomes – is that it should appeal to both the right and the left.


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