Economic Recovery Measures
The Federal Reserve's efforts to help the economy recover through quantitative easing (QE), twisting, and tapering have made front page news without fail. Although it has gotten less attention, the Treasury Department has also been changing the way it finances the national debt to take advantage of lower interest rates, inadvertently counteracting some of the intended effect of the Fed's policies on the economy. That's exactly what a new Brookings working paper by Robin Greenwood, Samuel Hanson, Joshua Rudolph, and Lawrence Summers argues: during the past 5 years, the Fed and the Treasury have been "rowing in opposite directions."
In 2008, the Fed reduced interest rates to near zero in an attempt to help the economy grow. But nominal interest rates cannot go below zero, so conventional monetary tools stopped working. To further stimulate the economy, the Fed took extraordinary measures and began purchasing long-term government bonds and government guaranteed debt (like Mortgage Backed Securities, or MBS). These measures reduced the amount of long-term debt available for public investors and lowered long-term rates.
But while the Fed was engaging in these unconventional transactions, the Treasury was selling more long-term debt to lengthen the average maturity of the national debt, thereby locking in today's low rates and mitigating the risks of higher interest rates in the future, essentially providing a partial counterbalance to the Fed’s policies.
The push among lawmakers to reform housing finance has picked up lately, as proposals have been emerging in recent weeks. The most prominent one in the Senate has been proposed by Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID).
Caught up in the release of CBO's baseline and its analysis of the President's budget last week was another CBO update of their estimate of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The subsidy estimate for the entire program is in line with analyses of previous years, showing a total net cost of $27 billion. The estimates have been much less than the $356 billion peak cost estimate CBO had in April 2009 and the $700 billion of total funds approved.
It seems to be Gimmick Week in DC.
As the Senate looks for offsets for an unemployment insurance extension, there is one provision that has gotten some attention: ending "double-dipping" for those receiving both UI and federal disability benefits.
Today, the Congressional Budget Office released their score of the proposal from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to renew extended unemployment benefits in concert with other reductions in spending.
The unemployment insurance saga continues. Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed an alternative unemployment benefit extension which would run through mid-November, in place of the three-month extension previously considered.
The passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act was a positive move away from governing by crisis, and a demonstration that policymakers can meet self-imposed legislative deadlines. Yet substantial unfinished business remains, and much of it has significant fiscal implications. Below are some issues Congress should address early this year:
At the end of 2013, Congress allowed extended unemployment benefits to expire, and as a result the maximum number of weeks for collecting benefits has declined from 73 to 26. While the White House and Congressional democrats have pushed for a one-year extension costing $25 billion, Sens.
In a move that has been discussed and anticipated for months, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee announced that it would slightly scale back its current quantitative easing program (QE3). Specifically, it would slow its purchases of longer-term Treasury and mortgage-backed securities by $5 billion per month each, reducing the total monthly purchase from $85 billion to $75 billion.