Here’s a couple of excerpts from a community forum held last month in NYC by The Nation magazine to discuss what drove the US economy off a cliff and what steps need to be taken to rectify the situation. The first features a vintage liberal, director of economic policy research at The New School, frequent contributor to the New York Times, and author of the book The Case for Big Government, talking about some of the fundamental causes of the recession and grading the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis thusfar.
The second is Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, an outspoken critic of “free market fundamentalists” and professor at Columbia University, attempting to explain the reason behind the Federal Reserve’s “loose monetary policies” of the past. According to Siglitz, the underlying problem stemmed from “an insufficiency of global aggregate demand” caused by a paradoxical disconnect between GDP growth and real wealth, the inverse redistribution of money, encouragement of unsustainable debt financing to compensate for the shortfall in real income, cost of the war in Iraq that contributed to rising oil prices that would have otherwise resulted in an economic downturn had not the Fed maintained artificially low interest rates, but that backfired through facilitation of an unsustainable housing bubble and consumption boom.
The other reason for the problem Stiglitz maintains can be indirectly traced back to the manner in which the IMF mismanaged the global economic crisis of 1997-98 in ways that robbed countries of their economic sovereignty and pushed them into destructive, pro-cyclical policies that made things go from bad to worse. Consequent to this, many countries decided to protect themselves from being dictated to by the IMF in future by accumulating massive reserves, thereby effectively taking their national income out of play. This hoarding Stiglitz argues was a contributory factor accounting for his so-called insufficiency of global aggregate demand.