Announcing another interest-rate increase on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the path toward a soft landing — with lower inflation and no significant rise in unemployment — has narrowed. The question is whether there is any such path.
Economic policy seems especially susceptible to a certain dynamic. Ideas get fixed too firmly and for too long, so when they’re forced to change, the shift is violent. Narratives drive decisions, and stories shape events, rather than the other way round. The new account of inflation is an arresting example.
The Federal Reserve embarked last week on its long-advertised monetary tightening: a quarter-point increase in interest rates, with the suggestion of six more by the end of the year, and a plan to run down its stock of government debt (details to follow). This was widely expected and essentially a non-event.
President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan is stalled, and the next steps are unclear. Some Democrats are talking about the need for new pandemic-relief measures, even as the White House is reportedly looking at a stripped-down version of the original proposal. Meanwhile, most analysts are giving short shrift to an issue that deserves more thought: how Build Back Better would make it harder to fight inflation.