QE2 and G20

An unintended consequence of QE2 has been the strong openly voiced opposition from some of America’s traditional allies as well as those countries, like China, perceived to be on the other side of the bargaining table. So the Fed is affecting U.S. foreign policy, and the fact that President Obama has had to defend the Fed in other countries raises questions about the Fed’s independence.

The administration’s main defense is that a growing U.S. economy is good for the world. While a strong U.S. economy is certainly good for the world, it is not so clear that QE2 will help the U.S. economy grow more strongly. I have argued that QE1 did not have much positive stimulus effect and the same is likely to be true for QE2 as I explained for example in this recent interview. Moreover, if the Fed thinks that quantitative easing helps by depreciation of the dollar, that policy certainly does not help demand in other countries.

But the insertion of QE2 into the negotiations was not the reason that the United States came away with so little at the G20 meeting in South Korea. The same thing happened at the previous Q20 meeting in Canada and there was no QE2 then. As I wrote at the time of the Canadian finance ministers and central bank governors meeting, the problem with the U.S. position then and now is that the idea that more deficit spending stimulus is needed to increase demand is an idea that other countries strongly disagree with, and in my view they are right. Indeed, the G20 has been getting on the right track despite the U.S. postion. The United States was able to sell stimulus packages to the G20 in early 2009, but most see that it has not done much good and has made the debt higher. The way to have a more successful G20 meeting in France next year is for the United States to go with a credible plan to reduce the budget and stop increasing the debt.

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