Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Superlative Recession and economic policies

Tatom, John (2009): The Superlative Recession and economic policies. Published in: Research Buzz , Vol. 5, No. 1 (January 2009): pp. 1-8.

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Abstract

In late 2008 and early 2009, there has been a serious deterioration in the economic outlook of political leaders, the media and many economic analysts. Comparisons of recent performance and the outlook have degenerated into comparisons with the Great Depression of the 1930s, suggesting that the current recession is the worst since the 1930s. This recession should be called the superlative recession because discussions invariably refer to the most dismal performance since the Great Depression. These superlative comparisons are far off base. But more importantly, the superlatives seem to have succeeded in reversing 70 years of history on economic policy and economic thought. With the benefit of time, depression era policies had been seen as complete failures that extended and worsened the depression.

A long delayed monetary policy easing has offered new possibilities for an end to the deepening recession, but its continuation remains in doubt because it is the result of a shift in policy procedures more than of a shift in policy. More troublesome is that massive fiscal policy programs have become central to the policy debate, despite three large failed fiscal responses over the past year and a strong consensus in the policy community that such efforts are not likely to be effective. A change of leadership has focused efforts on increasing federal spending in ways and to an extent not seen in many years, comparable with the fall 2008 explosion in money growth and putting fiscal policy in the same superlative response category as the recession itself.

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