Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Taylor v. Ben Bernanke

John Taylor, creator of the so-called Taylor Rule for guiding monetary policy, disputed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s argument that low interest rates didn’t cause the U.S. housing bubble.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those low interest rates were not only unusually low but they logically were a factor in the housing boom and therefore ultimately the bust,” Taylor, a Stanford University economist, said in an interview today in Atlanta...

Under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, the Fed lowered its benchmark rate to 1.75 percent from 6.5 percent in 2001 and cut it to 1 percent in June 2003. The central bank left the federal funds rate for overnight interbank lending at 1 percent for a year before raising it in quarter-point increments from 2004 to 2006.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

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