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Seven Faces of Peril Final Jul 28 Bullard 2010

Seven Faces of Peril Final Jul 28 Bullard 2010

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Published by Edward Harrison
A research paper by James Bullard from the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis on deflation and monetary policy from 28 Jul 2010
A research paper by James Bullard from the Federal Reserve bank of St. Louis on deflation and monetary policy from 28 Jul 2010

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Published by: Edward Harrison on Jul 29, 2010
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Seven Faces of “The Peril”
James Bullard
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
September-October Issue
In this paper I discuss the possibility that the U.S. economy maybecome enmeshed in a Japanese-style, de‡ationary outcome withinthe next several years. To frame the discussion, I rely on an analysisthat emphasizes two possible long-run outcomes (steady states) forthe economy, one which is consistent with monetary policy as it hastypically been implemented in the U.S. in recent years, and one whichis consistent with the low nominal interest rate, de‡ationary regimeobserved in Japan during the same period. The data I consider seemto be quite consistent with the two steady state possibilities. I describeand critique seven stories that are told in monetary policy circles re-garding this analysis. I emphasize two main conclusions: (1) TheFOMC’s extended period language may be increasing the probabil-ity of a Japanese-style outcome for the U.S., and (2) on balance, theU.S. quantitative easing program o¤ers the best tool to avoid such anoutcome.
JEL codes 
: E4, E5.
: Zero bound on nominal interest rates, active Taylorrule, global analysis, multiple steady states, Fisher relation, stability.
President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. This version: 29 July2010. Any views expressed are my own and do not necessarily re‡ect the views of otherFederal Open Market Committee members. Marcela M. Williams provided outstandingresearch assistance. I have bene…tted from review and comments by Richard Ander-son, David Andolfatto, Costas Azariadis, Jess Benhabib, Cletus Coughlin, George Evans,William Gavin, Seppo Honkapohja, Narayana Kocherlakota, Michael McCracken, Christo-pher Neely, Michael Owyang, Adrian Peralta-Alva, Robert Rasche, Daniel Thornton, andDavid Wheelock.
1 The peril
In 2001, three academic economists published a paper entitled “The Perilsof Taylor Rules.”
The paper has vexed policymakers and academics alikesince that time, as it identi…ed an important and very practical problem—a
—facing monetary policymakers, but provided little in the way of simpleresolution. The analysis appears to apply equally well to a wide variety of macroeconomic frameworks, not just to those which are in one particularcamp or another, so that the peril result has great generality. And, mostworrisomely, current monetary policies in the U.S. (and possibly Europe aswell) appear to be poised to head straight toward the problematic outcomedescribed in the paper.The authors of the 2001 paper are Jess Benhabib of New York Univer-sity, along with Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé and Martín Uribe, both now atColumbia University. They studied abstract economies in which the mone-tary policymaker follows an active Taylor-type monetary policy rule, that is,the policymaker changes nominal interest rates more than one-for-one whenin‡ation deviates from a given target. Active Taylor-type rules are so com-monplace in present day monetary policy discussions that they have ceasedto be controversial. Benhabib,
et al.
, also emphasized the zero bound onnominal interest rates. They suggested that the combination of an activeTaylor-type rule and a zero bound on nominal interest rates necessarily cre-ates a new long-run outcome for the economy. This new long-run outcomecan involve de‡ation and a very low level of nominal interest rates. Worse,there is presently an important economy that appears to be stuck in exactlythis situation: Japan.To see what Benhabib,
et al.
, were up to, consider Figure 1. This isa plot of nominal interest rates and in‡ation for both the U.S. and Japanduring the period from January 2002 through May 2010. The frequency ismonthly. The Japanese data are the circles in the Figure, and the U.S. data
Jess Benhabib, Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé, and Martín Uribe, 2001, “The Perils of Taylor Rules,”
Journal of Economic Theory 
96(1-2): 40-69.
Figure 1: Short-term nominal interest rates and core in‡ation rates in Japanand the U.S., 2002-2010. OECD data.are the squares. The short-term nominal interest rate is on the vertical axis,and the in‡ation rate is on the horizontal axis. To maintain internationalcomparability to the extent possible, all data are taken from the OECD maineconomic indicators. The short-term nominal interest rate is taken to be thepolicy rate in both countries—the overnight call rate in Japan and the federalfunds rate in the U.S. In‡ation is measured as the core consumer price indexin‡ation rate measured from one year earlier in both countries. The data inthe Figure never mix during this time period: The U.S. data always lie tothe northeast, and the Japanese data always lie to the southwest. This willbe an essential mystery of the story.Benhabib,
et al.
, wrote about the two lines in the Figure. The dashed line2

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