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Policy Brief 09-22

The World Needs Further Monetary Ease, Not an Early Exit

by Joseph E. Gagnon, Peterson Institute for International Economics

December 2009


Governments and central banks around the world eased macroeconomic policies aggressively in response to the 2008 financial crisis, arguably forestalling a second Great Depression. More recently, however, policymakers have been talking about when to withdraw the stimulus. This focus on exit is misguided. Current forecasts show an extended period of economic stagnation in the developed world. We need additional stimulus now, argues Joseph Gagnon. In particular, central banks in the main developed economies should push long-term interest rates 75 basis points below the levels they would otherwise be by purchasing a combined $6 trillion in long-term public and private debt securities. Relative to current forecasts, this policy action is expected to boost GDP 3 percent or more over the next eight quarters and to reduce unemployment rates by between 1 and 3 percent. Without additional stimulus, unemployment rates are likely to remain above equilibrium levels for many years at great cost to the world economy in terms of lost income and personal hardship. Moreover, with inflation rates already below desired levels, excess unemployment threatens to cause a fall in prices that would further damp recovery and retard the necessary process of deleveraging. In light of high and rising levels of public debt, additional monetary stimulus is preferable to additional fiscal stimulus. Indeed, monetary stimulus reduces the ratio of public debt to GDP by reducing interest expenses, increasing GDP, expanding tax revenues, and enabling an earlier start to fiscal consolidation.

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