“New norm” warning

Tough stuff from the always-insightful David Malpass, who warns that slow growth from a lower economic base could yield an historic downgrade of the U.S. experiment:

With the crisis taking a deep toll on our economy, the expectation is for a “new norm” once recovery kicks in. It’s a dismal prospect: slower growth from a lower base, with higher unemployment and bigger government.

Rather than a healthy frugality, the new norm implies an outright decline in median living standards, a disaster for both prosperity and fairness. For President Obama such economic mediocrity spells extended deficits, a “jobless” recovery and, at best, a stiff reelection fight instead of the cakewalk that his perfect timing–inaugurated at the exact bottom of the crisis–deserves.

The U.S. decline isn’t inevitable. Game changers exist. The Fed could improve dollar policy to make the tens of trillions of dollars in new U.S. Treasury debt more salable. It should stop buying Treasurys to make it utterly clear that it will not monetize debt. Buying Treasurys is the monetary equivalent of government workers digging a hole, filling it back up and calling it GDP.

To underscore the new commitment to price stability and creditors the Fed has to stop using core inflation for its report card. It’s a loud signal to the world, proclaiming: “The Fed is not serious. Money should flow to Asia. Sell the dollar.”

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