If even Larry Summers thinks the current stimulus being poured on America’s economy is “substantially excessive,” you can bet it’s way more than necessary. Here are some of Summers’s comments from a recent interview with FT‘s Martin Wolf:
If you look at the economy at the beginning of this year, prevailing forecasts were that Covid would reduce wages and salaries to American households by $20bn-$30bn a month, with that figure declining over the year. So, that would be a $250bn-$300bn hole in wages and salaries over the course of the year.
So, I look at this hole and then I see $900bn of stimulus in the December package, $1.9tn of stimulus in the recently passed package and $2tn in the savings overhang, which is also likely to be spent. I see the Fed with its foot on the accelerator as hard as any Fed has ever done.
I see serious discussion of trillions of dollars more in fiscal stimulus, along with the explanation that this latest package is not temporary Covid relief, but a harbinger of a major transformation in social policy, which suggests that at least some of it will be continued indefinitely.
So, I look at that dwindling hole. Then I look at expenditures that aren’t hard to add into the multiple trillions, and I see substantial risk that the amount of water being poured in vastly exceeds the size of the bathtub.
That could manifest itself, as a much smaller period of excess did during the Vietnam war, in rising inflation and a ratcheting-up of inflation expectations. It could, as has often happened, manifest itself in the Federal Reserve feeling a need for a sharp and surprising increase in interest rates, and the subsequent deceleration of the economy into recession.
It could manifest itself in a period of euphoric boom and optimism that leads to unsustainable bubbles, or it could all work out well. But, it doesn’t seem to me that the preponderant probability is that it will work out well. So I’m concerned that what is being done is substantially excessive.
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