Thoughts on how to avoid another Great Depression

This is another excellent Martin Wolf column, read the whole thing.  Here is one excerpt:

Before now, I had never really understood how the 1930s could happen. Now I do. All one needs are fragile economies, a rigid monetary regime, intense debate over what must be done, widespread belief that suffering is good, myopic politicians, an inability to co-operate and failure to stay ahead of events. Perhaps the panic will vanish. But investors who are buying bonds at current rates are indicating a deep aversion to the downside risks. Policy makers must eliminate this panic, not stoke it.

I believe people should take more seriously the notion that the ECB will remain hopeless, and that the crisis can only be addressed by some kind of joint US-German-UK-toss-in-the-other-sound-countries radical multilateral move.  Which is not to say I am predicting that.  But at least in principle, those three countries can get something done and they also have stronger common interests than those across the eurozone, sorry to say.

Just to make the comparison biting, what if we postponed the costly benefits part of ACA for a year (it may be struck down anyway) and send $200 billion directly to Spain and its banks?  Is more money needed?  Use this as an excuse to get rid of farm subsidies and cut defense spending.  Surely the Germans would then chip in too, and perhaps even the Chinese, if we made the donors club sound exclusive and toney enough.  Drop hints about various silly islands (not Taiwan).

Have the new QEwhatever driven by purchases of Spanish mortgages.  If they keep the money abroad, we lose only the cost of the paper or the electronic bookkeeping entries.  If they buy American goods and services with it, consider it QEwhatever as applied to American exports rather than mortgage paper.  No liquidity trap there, and the Fed doesn’t itself have to choose which exports to buy.  Combine with the Fed’s FX swap facility in some kind of nefarious way, and we can invent four or five new acronyms.  And so on.  We would still have a long, grinding worldwide recession but perhaps much less of an AD collapse with it.

I understand that Obama may not be the binding constraint here, but is he even thinking about pulling this off?  Is he sitting around wishing for it?  Is anyone talking to him about these options?


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