As a Princeton University professor, Ben Bernanke castigated the Bank of Japan in 2000 for a “case of self-induced paralysis” that led to a decade of stagnation. Now, the Federal Reserve chairman may be allowing the U.S. central bank to fall into the same trap after its second round of quantitative easing ends this month.
By all but ruling out another cycle of bond purchases, Fed officials have left themselves with little in the way of policy options to respond to slowing growth and rising unemployment. This raises the risk that the U.S. will remain saddled with what Bernanke himself has called a “frustratingly” sluggish recovery that leaves millions of Americans out of work.
“I worry that QE3 will be hostage to QE2,” said Vincent Reinhart, a former director of the Fed’s monetary-affairs division who is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “That may lead to that self-induced paralysis” in further easing policy to aid the economy.
Fed officials, who begin a two-day meeting tomorrow to plot monetary strategy, are betting the slowdown will prove short- lived and growth will pick up from July through December as shocks from Japan’s earthquake and an oil-price surge fade.
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