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  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: More than two years have passed since the U.S. housing bubble burst. That event ushered in a financial crisis that was not only intense but also stunning. So stunning in fact, that in August of last year, just a month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the global economy was close to a crisis worthy of comparison with the Great Depression, yet neither the markets nor the Federal Reserve had much of an inkling of what was to come. The Standard and Poor's (S) 500 Index had come down to about 1,300 from its October 2007 high of 1,576. Positive growth had just been reported for the U.S. economy during the second quarter of 2008 at an annual rate of 2.8 percent (later revised down to 1.5 percent). Almost one percentage point of that growth came from U.S. consumption, and government spending also contributed. The wave of relief after the Bear Stearns scare in March 2008 had provided a nice boost to the economy and to markets. That boost was further enhanced by the substantial contribution to growth from net exports (2.9 percentage points) thanks to what was, then, continuing strength in the global economy, especially in China, which had reported blistering 10.1 percent year-over-year growth in the second quarter of 2008. These and other positive components more than offset a drag from inventories and residential investment. In short, the real economy had not shown much evidence of damage emanating from the chaos that was churning in the financial sector.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The only thing scarier than the slide of the dollar, which has dropped by 15 percent since March, would be an attempt by the Federal Reserve to stop it. Such an attempt would show that we have learned nothing from the Bank of Japan's disastrous premature exit from a zero-interest policy in August 2000. Closer to home, it would resemble the Fed's premature move to mop up “excess” reserves by doubling reserve requirements in three steps between August 1936 and May 1937, which was followed by the third-worst recession of the twentieth century, from May 1937 to June 1938.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 10-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Wall Street is dancing again to the music of a sharp rise in stock prices. The question that remains is whether Main Street, currently languishing in a sad world of job losses, unavailable credit, and weakened balance sheets, will get to join the party. To put the question more precisely, will the “adverse feedback loop” that saw a financial collapse last fall that crushed the real economy work in reverse, so that a financial bounce boosts the real economy in coming quarters? The jury is still out on this important question.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Now that Wall Street and the Federal Reserve have finished congratulating themselves for not having been alarmists—in other words, for failing to recognize that a recession was looming—they are now facing up to the onset of a U.S. recession and a rapidly spreading financial crisis. Having been late to reach that conclusion, they now grudgingly admit that we may have a brief "V-shaped" recession and are apparently hoping that Fed rate cuts and a fiscal stimulus package will quickly solve the economy\'s problems.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Japan experienced a disastrous decade of economic stagnation and deflation from 1991 to 2001 after bubbles in its stock market and land market collapsed. While some economic pain was unavoidable—given a 60 percent plunge in equity prices between late 1989 and August 1992, accompanied by the onset of what ultimately became a 70 percent drop in land values by 2001—the "lost decade" was not an inevitable outcome. It required a series of persistently wrong economic policy decisions that ignored the lessons learned in America's Great Depression of the 1930s and the subsequent research on the causes of that painful period.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, Human Welfare, Humanitarian Aid, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, America, Asia
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 04-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In October 1907, J. P. Morgan stemmed a financial panic by coercing other banks to join him in providing credit to Wall Street brokerage firms teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.[1] This year, over the weekend including March 15—the ominous Ides of March—James Dimon, head of JPMorgan Chase, was the one to act. With the Federal Reserve squarely behind him and assuming the risk, he prevented a Bear Stearns bankruptcy by agreeing to purchase the firm, providing it with a decent burial, at a price of $2 per share. Bear Stearns's stock had been valued at over $160 per share just a year ago. The $2 price virtually wiped out the value of that stock, one-third of which is owned by its 14,000 employees. This was clearly not a bailout for Bear Stearns shareholders, and whether or not the steps taken by the Fed on March 16 were sufficient to arrest a further collapse of available credit and the economy remains to be seen. As long as house prices keep falling, the underlying problem for credit markets and the economy remains.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The desire to enhance and store wealth has been present ever since income rose above subsistence levels. In ancient times, prior to the creation of symbolic financial claims on wealth, wealth storage was, quite literally, the storage of intrinsically valuable articles in temples, pyramids, or other such formidable structures. Even today in Tibet, which was long a theocracy, a major repository of wealth can be seen in religious statues of solid gold resting in temples.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The bursting of every bubble is followed by statements suggesting that the worst is over and that the real economy will be unharmed. The weeks since mid-March have been such a period in the United States. The underlying problem—a bust in the residential real-estate market—has, however, grown worse, with peak-to-trough estimates of the drop in home prices having gone from 20 to 30 percent in the span of just two months. Meanwhile, the attendant damage to the housing sector and to the balance sheets tied to it has grown worse and spread beyond the subprime subsector.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, International Trade and Finance, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 07-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The Fed is in a bind, pulled toward easier monetary policy by a weak economy and fragile credit markets, while simultaneously needing to resist higher inflation. On Monday, June 9, after a weekend of headlines regarding a half-percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke gave a pathbreaking speech entitled "Outstanding Issues in the Analysis of Inflation" at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's fifty-third Annual Economic Conference. In that speech, after suggesting that the risks of a substantial  economic downturn had diminished over the past month and citing further progress in the repair of financial and credit markets, he proceeded to address the problem of rising inflation. In two sentences, he contributed to a sharp, fifty-basis-point rise in two-year bond yields and boosted the market's assessment of the chance of a fifty-basis-point rise in the federal-funds target rate at the September 16 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) from virtually zero to nearly 70 percent.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Ted Brennan, Robert "Bobby" Charles, Henry Cuellar, Roberta Jacobson, Armand Peschard-Sverdrup
  • Publication Date: 03-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Drug abuse and related crime claim nearly thirty-five thousand American lives and sap $180 billion from our economy every year.1 Although the United States is understandably preoccupied with the threat of Islamic terrorism, it must never let down its guard against the well-financed, bloodthirsty, illicit drug cartels that exact a staggering price on our well-being and economy. President George W. Bush's fiscal year 2009 budget proposes to spend well over $14 billion for federal programs to suppress demand and attack supply. Because most cocaine and heroin find their way to the U.S. market through Mexico, it is essential that Mexican authorities confront the illegal drug syndicates whose cross-border crime threatens both countries. The Mérida Initiative—named for the Yucatan city where Bush, then-president of Guatemala Óscar Berger, and Mexican president Felipe Calderón met in March 2007—proposes to make a $1.4 billion multiyear U.S. contribution to support Mexican law enforcement and judicial reforms in their antidrug efforts. The challenges are formidable: Mexico's relatively weak judicial institutions are hard-pressed to take on these well-heeled gangsters on their own, and both sides are protective of their national sovereignty. Nevertheless, both countries have signaled their commitment to this cause: at a February 7, 2008, hearing, the Drug Enforcement Agency's chief of intelligence, Anthony Placido, praised the tangible measures being taken and sacrifices being made by Mexico today and urged skeptical U.S. lawmakers to seize the opportunity to cooperate with Mexican allies against a common foe. Despite heavy media focus on the counternarcotics elements of the initiative, when the specifics of the initiative are examined, it is clear that its aim is to strengthen Mexico's security institutions, enabling them to deal with the threat nonstate actors—be they terrorists, organized crime, criminal gangs, or domestic radical groups—pose to the country's security.
  • Topic: Crime, War on Drugs
  • Political Geography: United States, Latin America, Mexico