Quantitative easing is the Fed’s version of “stimulus,” the complement to fiscal stimulus. The trouble with all forms of temporary spending is that they have no permanent effects. They delay needed adjustments in the economy.
Today’s state and local governments are a case in point. Municipal and state spending was propped up by federal transfers of many billions of dollars in the president’s 2009 stimulus package. But as this federal money has dried up, public payrolls are declining, ironically enough for this administration, close to the presidential election. President Obama received bad advice when he was told that government spending would prime the pump of the economy. Instead it had the effect of temporarily transferring resources from the productive private sector to a bloated public sector.
The Fed’s version of temporary stimulus will likely involve purchasing government bonds. If past is prologue, this will act as a sugar rush to financial markets. There will be equity- and bond-market rallies. Wall Street will rejoice, but none of this will translate into “substantial and sustainable” economic growth, the FOMC’s stated goal….
What would stir the spirits of investors and employers would be some policy certainty, reining-in of out-of-control government spending, stopping ill-advised regulations, and clearing the air of antibusiness rhetoric. No repeat of a one-off round of bond buying by the Fed substitutes for the fundamental and permanent changes needed.