Ted Cruz Explains the Great Recession


Jim Pethokoukis draws my attention to Ted  Cruz’s theory of why the Great Recession was so great. Here is Joseph Lawler describing Cruz’s questioning of Fed chairman Janet Yellen yesterday:

Cruz began a round of questioning by stating that, in the summer of 2008, “the Federal Reserve told markets that it was shifting to a tighter monetary policy. This, in turn, set off a scramble for cash, which caused the dollar to soar, asset prices to collapse and [the consumer price index] to fall below zero, which set the stage for the financial crisis.”

….Yellen, although used to obscure or hostile questions from members of Congress, seemed taken off-guard. “I think the Fed responded pretty promptly in easing monetary policy to the pressures that were emerging,” she responded, saying that she wouldn’t blame the financial crisis on the Fed failing to lower rates during the meeting. She also noted that the Fed had lowered its target rate to zero by December.

I think you can argue that the Fed should have responded sooner and more forcefully to the events of 2008, but the problem with Cruz’s theory is that it just doesn’t make sense. Take a look at the chart on the right, which shows the Fed Funds target rate during the period in question. In April 2008, the Fed lowered its target rate to 2 percent. Then it waited until October to lower it again.

So the idea here is that if the Fed had acted, say, three months earlier, that would have saved the world. This ascribes super powers to Fed open market policy that I don’t think even Scott Sumner would buy. Monetary policy should certainly have been looser in 2008, but holding US rates steady for a few months too long just isn’t enough to turn an ordinary recession into the biggest global financial meltdown in nearly a century.

Cruz would like to blame the Fed, but they bear only a modest responsibility. Better culprits include underregulation of shadow banking; a housing bubble fueled partly by fraud and partly by Wall Street irresponsibility; excess systemic leverage; and Republican unwillingness to fight the recession with fiscal policy. Unfortunately, none of those fit Cruz’s agenda. So the Fed it is.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.