Monday, August 30, 2010

Why another fiscal stimulus won't do - By Mohamed A. El-Erian

Thanks to Will for passing this along.

In sum, the current policy approaches here and abroad are unlikely to deliver a durable and robust U.S. recovery and, critically, create sufficient growth in jobs. Yet the main debate in Washington is whether to do more of the same -- namely, another fiscal stimulus and another round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. This clearly conflicts with evidence that a broader and more holistic response is needed.

These realities will fuel debate among economists, who already hold unusually divergent views, and reignite the discomforting notion that economic unthinkables and improbables -- such as a double-dip recession and a deflation trap -- are more of a possibility.

What is critical to keep in mind is that this situation is part of a broad, multiyear process driven by national and global realignments. It's a secular phenomenon that needs to be better understood and navigated -- by recognizing its structural dimensions and by urgently broadening the excessively cyclical policy mindsets that abound. Unfortunately, the approach in too many industrial countries has been to kick the can down the road, seemingly hoping for a series of immaculate economic recoveries.

Policymakers must break this active inertia by implementing a structural vision to accompany their current cyclical focus. Measures are needed to address key issues, which include the change in drivers of growth and employment creation; the high risk of skill erosion and lost labor productivity; financial deleveraging in the private sector; debt overhangs; the uncertain regulatory environment; and the unacceptably high risks facing the most vulnerable segments of society.

Specific measures would include pro-growth tax reform, housing finance reform, increased infrastructure investments, greater support for education and research, job retraining programs, removal of outdated interstate competition barriers and stronger social safety nets.

That, of course, is what is desirable; how about what is likely?