Wednesday 22 November 2017

David McWilliams: Growth focus is mending US while austerity stalls Europe

David McWilliams

David McWilliams

WHOEVER has won the US election, he will be reasonably assured that he will preside over an economy that is on the mend. Last weekend I spoke to someone who knows Obama well and is a big Democratic fundraiser in California. His assessment is that Obama knows that the economy is moving in the right direction but he also knows that the next president will gain credit and this is one of the factors driving him as he would be appalled if Romney took the economic plaudits.

Whether this is a fair assessment of the president's state of mind, it is significant that the US economy, after a few years on the ropes, is recovering. One way to look at the last four years of economic policy in the US is that a battered, bruised and very sick economy has been nursed back to health by a central bank and a government that is putting growth first and is worrying about austerity later.

To achieve this, the central bank has kept interest rates as close to zero as possible in order to ease the severe deleveraging that has gripped the US since the property/credit bubble burst in 2008/9. In tandem, where low interest rates have not worked because the people have too much debt and the banks too much bad debt, the Federal Reserve has engaged in what is called "quantitative easing", buying up collateral from the banks and giving the banks money in return.

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