‘Crazy things happen’: Biden’s next spending spree fuels a fight over risks

President Joe Biden is charging ahead with plans for a $3 trillion federal spending spree just after pumping nearly $2 trillion into an already growing economy.

Even some supporters of the effort are watching nervously for unintended consequences on the road to getting a deal.

The unprecedented flood of federal dollars — should it materialize — is starting to worry a contingent of Democrats, economists and investors who fear that at least some long-held economic views around federal spending will reassert themselves and trigger painful costs.

Among them is the long-held fear that massive spending — coupled with persistent easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve — in an already firming economy could spark a wave of inflation, a disorienting spike in interest rates and a painful pullback in a broad range of currently high-flying assets, from home prices to tech stocks to the newer fad of “non-fungible tokens” and Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) that saw a flood of investor interest in recent months.

“History shows us that when money is effectively free, crazy things happen,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.). “And we are starting to see lots of crazy things in the equity market, the high-yield bond market, SPACs and tokens. Oftentimes this kind of thing does not end well at all.”

Himes and other Democrats are quick to note that previous warnings about the need for fiscal restraint proved hollow and severely limited the effectiveness of President Barack Obama’s economic rescue efforts following the 2008 financial crisis.

And so far, despite some unrest in bond markets, investors in government debt have shown only limited concern about Biden’s spending plans despite soaring federal debt and annual deficits.

But the long road to securing the next package is quickly getting littered with warnings that could become ‘I-told-you-so’ moments even before Biden can strike a deal in Congress.

Among the most critical questions is whether pumping trillions more dollars into the economy, one that’s already catapulting out of the worst of the Covid-19 epidemic, could lead to the kind of overheated conditions that trigger a new era of too much inflation — the kind that historically has required the Fed to hit the brakes, even if it means triggering recession.

“My concern is that this is taking us further into substantial risk territory,” Larry Summers, the former top Obama and Clinton administration economic official, who has emerged as the most prominent Democrat warning of unintended consequences. “We either do what we did during Vietnam, which is explain inflation away and attribute it to transitory factors until we wake up one morning and we have 4 percent inflation expectations, or we aggressively try to contain it like we did after the Korean War and we have a recession. Both of those are substantial risks along with the risks to the dollar and of asset price bubbles.”

Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, said administration officials were not at all “dismissive” of concerns about inflation or overheating the economy — but that on balance they view the risks of doing too little as far greater than doing too much.

He suggested that some significant portion of the next $3 trillion would be offset by proposed increases to corporate taxes and individual rates on the wealthy.

“We recognize that corporations and the wealthy have disproportionately benefited from growth for many years now including over the pandemic,” he said. “Overall, this is a very concentrated package that hits a critical set of goals including knocking out the virus and putting it behind us and then an investment agenda to push back on structural inequalities that have long persisted, and doing so while injecting some much needed equity and fairness into the tax code.”

Biden himself is expected to start facing questions about his new spending plans at a press conference on Thursday and at other events in the coming weeks. The president has already reiterated his campaign pledge that he’d like to reverse some of President Donald Trump’s tax hikes, pushing the corporate rate higher and raising individual rates on those making over $400,00 per year.

Getting those kinds of tax hikes through would require the White House and Democrats in Congress to once again use the budget reconciliation process they employed to win passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. The process requires only a simple majority in the Senate, meaning every Democrat plus Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote.

White House officials expect more details to come next Wednesday when Biden travels to Pittsburgh as part of the “Help is Here” tour touting the stimulus plan.

The $3 trillion in further spending would include much more of Biden’s “Build Back Better” campaign agenda, including big investments in infrastructure and renewable energy, a White House official said. A second package could include other campaign promises on expanding free access to community college, universal kindergarten and more paid leave, all aimed at fighting economic inequality.

Support for making these kinds of big investments, even without any GOP support, is fairly wide among Democrats who largely no longer care about debt and deficits. Covering the cost of these programs — which Biden highlighted as a priority on the campaign trail — is much less of a concern for the party than it was in recent decades.

The growing concern on Wall Street is not just driven by Democrats’ spending plans. It also centers on Fed Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues remaining strongly committed to keeping interest rates low for a long period of time and expressing little to no concern about the potential for higher inflation to take hold — particularly as the economy recovers from the pandemic and households prepare to deploy significant savings and stimulus checks on an expected wave of spending later this year and next year.

To some investors and economists, inflation is already growing troublesome in higher housing and commodity prices even if the commonly used national gauges of inflation remain tame. Fears in the bond market about rising inflation, which reduces the value of current holdings, drove up yields on Treasury debt for several weeks, creating jitters across financial markets until Treasury yields moderated recently.

Some Wall Street analysts still fear market turbulence ahead — particularly after record gains in the past year since the coronavirus crisis struck — that dents business confidence and slows an otherwise bright economic path.

“Powell’s goal is to drive broad unemployment down and he wants to keep maximum liquidity in the system and to not adjust policy anytime soon,” said Andrew Slimmon, managing director at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “The net result of highly pumped up liquidity is you start to create asset bubbles in many places.”

Slimmon, like many on Wall Street, is not at all sure when the combination of massive federal spending and Fed easy-money policies will spark inflation that could lead to many of these bubbles bursting. “I don’t know why it hasn’t happened. But it could happen,” he said.

Powell and the Fed, meanwhile, continue to suggest that somewhat higher inflation would be welcome after years in which price increases ran below the central bank’s 2 percent target.

The central bank instead is trying to convince markets that it will not blink at the first sign of trouble and will let price levels rise slightly higher. Without that change in mindset, the Fed fears being stuck in a world where inflation runs below its target and rates are low forever.

Closely tied to this is the Fed’s prediction (as well as that of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen) that inflation later this year won’t be long-lasting.

Progressive Democrats make similar arguments about Fed policy, suggesting fears of too much inflation are unfounded and that healing the labor market is far more important. They mostly say the same about concerns about the impact of rising debt and deficits.

In previous Democratic regimes, including those of Clinton and Obama, White House officials including Summers often worried about bond market “vigilantes” exacting their toll on the economy.

The fear was that deficits and debt would reach the point that bond investors would resist buying Treasury debt over fears about long-run sustainability. That would then lead to sharp spikes in interest rates, denting the economy.

But those risks never materialized in a debilitating way. And so it should no longer be a concern, many progressives say.

Critics of this view suggest that just because it hasn’t happened in recent years does not mean it can’t happen, especially if Congress and the White House are pumping $5 trillion more into the economy only partly offset by higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere.

“People have forgotten that prior to [former Fed Chair] Paul Volcker’s disinflation, the basic story of the American business cycle was that the economy overheated, generated inflation and then the Fed hit the brakes hard and the economy skidded into recession,” said Summers.

Victoria Guida contributed to this report.

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  • 1 неделя, 2 дня назад 28.04.2021Economy

    OTTAWA — Mark Carney says it will take a few budgets for the Trudeau government’s recovery plan to deliver the growth Canada needs as it emerges from Covid-19’s economic crisis.

    The assessment by the former governor of the Bank of England and Bank of Canada comes amid criticism that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget last week lacks a robust post-pandemic growth plan.

    Carney was asked during an interview on The Herle Burly podcast, posted Wednesday, if Freeland’s plan was the growth budget Canada needed.

    “There were elements of growth in the balance from what I can see and understand,” Carney said in a long response that didn’t directly answer the question. “It will take a few budgets to have the type of growth strategy that meets the imperative of what we’re going through and the opportunities that come.”

    Politics and punditry: Carney’s remarks on the budget follow the political splash he made earlier this month by proclaiming his allegiance to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

    Critics have challenged the recovery plan in Freeland’s budget for coming up short on a blueprint to truly bolster economic growth, even though it will cost taxpayers a record-breaking C$101 billion over three years.

    The budget contained major commitments to invest in a greener economy, digitization and child care. Freeland says the child-care plan will, if it comes together, permanently boost GDP by 1.2 percent by increasing women’s participation in the labor force and creating jobs in the sector.

    In his response on Wednesday’s podcast, Carney also told interviewer David Herle that there are times when there are “big shifts and where events accelerate big shifts.”

    “Covid has absolutely accelerated both the digital and sustainable revolutions — and it is not an overstatement to say that those are revolutions,” Carney said. “We need to meet the challenges at that level. And I think the budget did some things in that direction, which are welcome, but it’s going to take more than one budget and I don’t think the government would pretend otherwise — that this is ‘job done.’”

    The concerns: Budget watchers have expressed doubts about the overall plan.

    Robert Asselin, a former budget director for Freeland’s predecessor Bill Morneau, wrote an item last week in The Hub under the title “The federal budget has no answers on the question of growth.”

    Asselin, senior vice president of policy at the Business Council of Canada, wrote that it’s “hard to find a coherent growth plan” in the 739-page budget. He did credit the plan’s proposed investments in child care, skills, life biosciences and clean technology.

    In particular, he noted that the budget itself shows real GDP growth is on track to fade over the budget’s forecast horizon to around 2 percent, which would be a return to long-run growth rates.

    “After doubling our federal debt in only six years, and spending close to a trillion dollars, not moving the needle on long-term growth would be the worst possible legacy of this budget,” he wrote.

    Focusing on the growth: Later in the interview, Carney described Freeland’s plan as a “hybrid budget.”

    “It had to conquer Covid, it was doing important things on the social side and it had the start of the growth,” Carney said. “What we’re seeing in some other jurisdictions is that the focus is more squarely on the growth.”

    He said a tighter focus on growth would mean more of the spending would come in the form of direct government investments. Carney said it would also likely include tax changes and other measures to encourage private investment and the expansion of jobs and incomes that will be needed down the road.

  • 2 недели, 4 дня назад 20.04.2021Economy

    The federal Liberals have set an ambitious new target for Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as part of a sweeping set of big-ticket budget measures aimed at fighting climate change while giving Canada’s pandemic-hit economy a green lift.

    In her budget speech, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s new goal is to reduce emissions by 36 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, up from the 30 percent reduction target first set by the previous Conservative government.

    But with U.S. President Joe Biden set to host a virtual climate summit of 40 world leaders later this week, where some believe he may announce a reduction target of 50 percent, it’s not clear Canada’s upgraded plan will be ambitious enough.

    The backdrop: Since coming to power in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stressed his government’s commitment to tackling climate change. With Canada’s economy slowly rebounding from the effects of Covid-19 amid a renewed global interest in climate issues, the government’s first budget in two years seeks to harness the recovery to its environmental policies.

    “[The federal budget is] a plan that embraces this moment of global transformation to a green, clean economy,” said Freeland in her budget speech. “In 2021, job growth means green growth.”

    Another senior official summed up the government’s thinking: “Climate change is now an innovation and a jobs opportunity.”

    Here’s how the Trudeau government plans to meet its climate goals.

    Direct spending: As part of the government’s stated goal of cutting Canada’s carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050, while also pursuing a more activist role in guiding the economy, Ottawa is pumping C$5 billion over seven years into the Net Zero Accelerator.

    The program, announced in December with an initial C$3 billion in funding, aims to cajole Canadian companies in traditional sectors to reduce their carbon footprints, whether that’s by incentivizing large emitters like oil and steel producers to decarbonize, or spurring auto and aerospace manufacturers to adopt clean technologies.

    In the same vein of steering private industries to pursue actions the Liberal government deems worthy, Ottawa will also make C$1 billion available over five years “to help draw in private sector investment” to Canada’s clean technology sector.

    One of the biggest-ticket new items among the budget’s environmental initiatives aims to fulfill a Liberal promise from the October 2019 election to conserve 25 percent of Canada’s oceans and lands by 2025. The federal government plans to spend C$2.3 billion over five years to conserve up to one million square kilometers of land and inland waterways. The government also vows to create “thousands of jobs” through its “historic investments in Canada’s natural legacy” but offers no specifics.

    Tax cuts: In a budget big on maximizing tax revenue, one group will see a smaller tax bill, at least temporarily — manufacturers of zero-emission technologies. It’s a wide umbrella that includes manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, batteries and fuel cells as well as biofuel and green hydrogen producers.

    Companies that earn at least 10 percent of their total gross revenue in Canada from eligible zero-emission efforts can get a 50 percent on their corporate and small business income tax rates, though the tax break will start to phase out in 2029 and will be eliminated by 2032.

    Home is where the green is: Building on a program announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement to encourage homeowners and landlords to carry out energy-efficient upgrades, Ottawa plans to dole out C$4.4 billion in interest free loans of up to C$40,000 each to homeowners to conduct “deep retrofits” like replacing oil furnaces, drafty windows and poor insulation.

    Other measures: As expected, Canada plans to tap into the growing demand among global investors for fixed income securities that finance green infrastructure projects and other sustainability initiatives. Canada hopes to raise C$5 billion by issuing green bonds in fiscal 2021-22, which the budget said will “be the first of many green bond issuances.”

    With the federal carbon tax passing its last legal hurdle with a thumbs up from the Supreme Court last month, rebate payments to consumers will start to become more visible next year. At the moment, Canadians receive payments as a refundable credit when filing their taxes, but starting in 2022 the money will go out each quarter as regular benefits.

    To be determined: A few important components of Ottawa’s climate-related budget measures that could have an outsized impact on Canada’s ability to meet its climate goals still have yet to be nailed down.

    There have been many calls from industry, particularly in the oil and gas sector, for Ottawa to introduce a tax credit to encourage carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). Ottawa says an investment tax credit for capital invested in CCUS projects is coming, and that the measure could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 15 megatonnes annually.

    However no dollar figure was attached in the budget, which said the final cost is pending a 90-day consultation period with no official start date.

    Lastly, with nations around the world implementing different types of carbon pricing, and some countries applying no price on pollution at all on their domestic industries, the government is looking to level the playing field for Canadian businesses. It’s exploring a border carbon adjustment scheme that would apply appropriate levies on imports and exports, though the government says this too will require “a consultation process.”

  • 1 месяц назад 02.04.2021Economy

    President Joe Biden is pitching his $2 trillion infrastructure proposal as the “largest American jobs investment since World War Two,” a plan that will put millions of people back to work as the country emerges from the coronavirus crisis.

    The economy, meanwhile, is showing signs of recovering on its own.

    More than 916,000 Americans returned to work in March, the Labor Department reported on Friday, far surpassing consensus expectations and marking the biggest jump in employment since the summer as Americans get vaccinated and more states and cities allow businesses to reopen. The overall unemployment rate ticked down to 6 percent.

    And that in turn has blunted one of the central pillars of the Biden administration’s argument as to why the sprawling infrastructure plan is so sorely needed, even after $1.9 trillion in relief money passed just last month — that “it’s about jobs,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki put it this week, and “the first part of his plan toward recovery.”

    Most lawmakers in both parties agree, however, that a major investment in the country’s infrastructure would be well worth it, a step Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both tried and failed to take. But pitching trillions more in spending as necessary to bring back jobs could become a harder argument to make as the economy looks poised to get there on its own.

    “Spending at a much smaller level, but better targeted, would have better bang for the buck,” said Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee. “We are wasting far too much of these dollars in areas that frankly aren’t related to the recovery.”

    The White House’s argument could ring hollow in particular to Republicans and possibly even some centrist Democrats who have begun to try to tap the brakes over the eye-popping levels of cash being pumped into the economy. Congress passed roughly $5.4 trillion in emergency aid measures in less than a year, and the White House is putting another $2 trillion to $4 trillion on the table now.

    “I don’t see much of a stimulus or jobs argument going very far, even as some try to make it,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute. “The economic outlook is strong for the second half of the year. And it would have been strong without the next stimulus bill.”

    The infrastructure package’s supporters maintain that while some further stimulus would still benefit the economy — no one in the administration wants to repeat the sluggish “jobless recovery” that followed the Great Recession — the broader objective is to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, making it more resilient against the effects of climate change while expanding access to clean water and broadband.

    And that goal is worth pursuing even in spite of the record levels of cash Congress has already appropriated in the last 12 months, proponents say — especially given the current low interest rate environment.

    “We’re not going to go fix 10,000 bridges just to put people to work. We’re going to fix them because those 10,000 bridges need to be fixed,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who leads the Joint Economic Committee.

    “Even if there were no stimulus argument to be made, there’s a very powerful argument to be made that the American Jobs Plan is necessary,” he said. “Maybe you could call it something else — you’d just call it the Infrastructure Plan.”

    Some economists argue that the infrastructure initiatives are so important that policymakers should be wary of allowing spending fatigue and the strengthening economy to become the reasons it doesn’t get done this year.

    Diane Swonk, the chief economist at Grant Thornton, said it would “be a shame” if the earlier relief measures crowded out the infrastructure plans.

    “It’s beyond a crisis point, and just because we’re coming out of a pandemic doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it,” she said. “All the more reason to do it. Because we already know a rising tide does not lift all boats, and you don’t want to mistake the surge associated with unleashing the pent-up demand from the pandemic with long-term sustainability.”

    Those long-term benefits are the most important reason to pass the infrastructure plan, supporters say, given that it would invest in projects that will pay for themselves within 15 years and benefit the country for decades after that.

    And that extended timeline is the reason most economists have shrugged off any concerns that another multitrillion-dollar influx of cash could be too much, too fast for the broader economy. Much of the money as proposed under Biden’s plan would not be spent for at least a few years after it is signed into law, and it will be doled out over eight years. Biden is proposing paying for it, though over a longer timeline than it will initially be spent, with tax hikes on corporations.

    “I don’t think that it exacerbates the overheating concern that I’ve expressed in an important way,” said former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, a vocal critic of the administration’s $1.9 trillion relief plan, which he warned could funnel too much money into the economy, spark inflation and crowd out other progressive priorities.

    But the infrastructure proposal, he said, is not about “short-term injecting money into the economy — but creating the infrastructures and the institutions that success in the 21st century requires.”

  • 1 месяц, 2 недели назад 23.03.2021Economy

    Black Americans, who were among the hardest hit by coronavirus layoffs, are now recovering at the slowest rate, a one-two punch that threatens to worsen the United States’ already stark wealth and income disparities long after the pandemic recedes.

    While Hispanic workers initially saw the sharpest uptick in unemployment when business shutdowns began last spring, Black people have seen a slower return to work even as the economy is poised for a robust rebound, government data and economic analyses show. When the overall unemployment rate ticked down in February, Black workers were the only group that saw a rise in joblessness, a 0.7 percentage point increase.

    The share of Black Americans holding jobs also dropped over the month while it continued to move up for all other races and ethnicities. Over the past year, white, Asian and Hispanic Americans have regained roughly two-thirds of their initial job losses in terms of what share of their population is working, a key measure of labor and unemployment known as the “employment-population ratio.” Black workers have only recovered slightly more than half.

    The data has fueled fears that the nascent recovery will not be evenly shared, a dynamic that would exacerbate income and wealth inequality while prolonging the return to full employment. The trend is reminiscent of the Great Recession, when Black workers saw a worse downturn and slower rate of return to normal. And this time, it has caught the attention of top policymakers across the Biden administration and in Congress.

    “We’re trying to make sure that it is not like so many other recoveries,” said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the most senior Black lawmaker in Congress and chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. “Slow for everybody, and a snail’s pace for Black and brown communities.”

    The headwinds that Black workers face are plenty, some unique to the coronavirus recession but others the result of structural inequities that have long contributed to high rates of unemployment — typically double that of white workers even in strong economies.

    For one, many of the industries in which Black workers are heavily represented are not recovering as quickly as others as the economy reopens — or are even continuing to backslide. State and local governments have long been a major employer for African Americans. But while the labor market broadly improved last month, state and local governments shed another 83,000 jobs and remain down 1.4 million workers from a year ago.

    “Those sectors in which the rebound is really not happening, or not happening in impactful ways, are really almost the same industries in which African Americans are overrepresented,” said Michelle Holder, a labor economist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She cited transportation, a major employer for Black men, and health services, where Black women are heavily represented, as two other industries that have taken longer to come back, keeping the unemployment rate high.

    The devastation of the child care sector amid the shutdowns has also heavily affected Black and Hispanic women, who are more likely to work at child care centers and to depend on them in order to be able to take jobs elsewhere.

    And while employment in high-wage sectors has almost completely recovered, low-wage industries remain down 28 percent from a year ago, according to Harvard’s Opportunity Insights tracker — a disparity that disproportionately affects workers of color.

    Structural inequities in the U.S. labor market that have affected Black and Hispanic workers’ ability to advance out of low-paying jobs, as well as discrimination in hiring practices, are also likely having an effect, some economists say.

    When unemployment spiked in April, the gap between Black and white rates of joblessness narrowed significantly, indicating the losses were spread across the board. But it has steadily grown since then as white workers have returned to work faster — which William Spriggs, chief economist at the AFL-CIO, said he took as “proof” of the effect of discriminatory hiring practices.

    Spriggs also said that for much of the past year, unemployment has been higher for all Black workers, including those with college degrees, than for those of all races with less than a high school education.

    “This is not a matter of skills,” Spriggs said. “It’s a matter of the way discrimination takes place within the recovery.”

    One way to address the slower recovery among workers of color is to ensure that federal support remains in place as long as Black and Hispanic unemployment remains elevated, advocates say, rather than cut it off once the levels return closer to normal. And given that these workers typically remain out of work the longest, President Joe Biden will need a prolonged economic recovery to ensure the labor market gets tight enough to pull them back in from the sidelines.

    Clyburn’s focus is two-fold: tracking the Covid relief money as it goes out to ensure that it’s being spent equitably, and pushing the Biden administration to invest heavily in a second stimulus package focused on infrastructure, which would spark job creation across the country.

    Clyburn said he has spoken about the need to address the uneven recovery with both Biden and Susan Rice, the president’s top domestic policy adviser, adding that Biden has made clear “he plans to do the right thing.”

    There are signs the administration is focused on the disparities. The White House Council of Economic Advisers highlighted adjusted unemployment rates, which include those who have given up the search for work, broken down by race and gender after the latest jobs data was released for February. The report showed that the Black unemployment rate stood at nearly 15 percent — affecting nearly 1 in 6 workers — compared to an overall rate of 9.5 percent. The adjusted Hispanic unemployment rate is 12.4 percent.

    At the Labor Department, chief economist Janelle Jones penned a blog post last month stressing the disproportionate economic impact of the pandemic on Black Americans, particularly women.

    And Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says he is tracking the Black and Hispanic unemployment rates, among other statistics, because elevated joblessness there signals weakness in the broader labor market.

    “This particular downturn, of course, was just a direct hit on a part of the economy that employs many minorities and lower paid workers… and it’s the slowest part of the economy to recover,” Powell said at a March 17 press conference. “We’d like to see those people continue to get support as the broader economy recovers, as it’s very much doing now.”

    The longer the rate of recovery for Black workers continues to lag, the more likely it is to have a lasting impact. Workers who fall into long-term unemployment — defined as being out of a job for six months or more — take longer to return to work and are more likely to drop out of the labor market entirely.

    Black workers are also far less likely to have had savings to lean on to weather an extended period of joblessness — the net worth of an average Black family is about one-tenth that of a white family — and therefore more vulnerable to falling into debt or losing their homes. And another prolonged economic recovery for Black Americans could worsen the already dramatic racial wealth gap, particularly as it drags on both personal savings and future earnings.

    The key to addressing the inequities lies in promoting a strong economic recovery for everyone, while recognizing that some communities and workers will take longer to return to normal and require more help than others, economists say.

    “People love the quote [from] John F. Kennedy, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ It lifts all the boats that got solid bottoms,” Clyburn said. “If the bottoms got holes in them or if the boats have deteriorated, a rising tide ain’t gonna lift them.”

  • 1 месяц, 3 недели назад 17.03.2021Economy

    The Federal Reserve on Wednesday projected the U.S. economy will grow 6.5 percent this year, the fastest pace in four decades, fueled by growing vaccination rates and nearly $2 trillion in new federal spending.

    Central bank officials upgraded their growth forecast from their 4.2 percent estimate in December, saying they now expect the unemployment rate to drop to 4.5 percent by the end of 2021.

    Fed officials are also predicting a short-term burst in inflation this year, but only slightly above the central bank’s long-run goal of 2 percent, estimating that it could rise to 2.4 percent.

    Despite the surge in growth, the Fed isn’t in any hurry to raise borrowing costs, projecting no interest rate increases through 2023 — a stance that sent the stock market soaring. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has rejected fears that more direct checks to Americans from the federal government will lead to troubling price spikes, doubling down on the Fed’s pledge to keep interest rates low to allow as many people back into the labor force as possible.

    Inflation has remained muted for years, despite warnings that it was bound to accelerate because of the Fed’s low-rate policy.

    Even as Fed officials expect unemployment to drop to 3.5 percent in 2023, they still expect inflation to hover around 2 percent for the next couple of years.

    A few policymakers do think the central bank could hike rates as early as next year, but they’re the minority on the 18-member rate-setting committee.

  • 1 месяц, 3 недели назад 14.03.2021Economy

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday defended the recently enacted Covid relief package, saying the benefits for the economy far outweigh any concerns that the burst of government spending could lead to inflation.

    Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Yellen said, “We need to defeat the pandemic. This package really does that.”

    President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion relief package into law Thursday. Some economists, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, have raised concerns the measure could lead to rising prices in coming months.

    Yellen said the greater risk was in not bolstering the economy — saying the federal government needed to assist people who are out of work, who are facing eviction or foreclosure, or who simply don’t have enough food to eat.

    “The most significant risk we face is a workforce that is scarred by a long period of unemployment. People being out of work, not able to find jobs, can have a permanent effect on their well-being. I think that’s the most significant risk,” Yellen said. “Is there a risk of inflation? I think there’s a small risk. And I think it’s manageable. “

    Yellen did say that efforts needed to be made to keep deficits under control.

    “Of course, we have to make sure that the economy, that the budget is on a sustainable path,” she told host George Stephanopoulos, “and this is something that we can afford. In the longer run, we need to get deficits under control.”

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Economy 'Crazy things happen': Biden’s next spending spree fuels a fight over risks