Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "U.S."

Beware Friendly Fire in the Currency Wars

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
imports and inflation

Prominent economic commentators have argued the cases for significantly weaker currencies in each of the world’s major economies – in particular, the United States, the eurozone, Japan, and the UK. As these four economies represent over half of the global economy, it’s clear that they can’t all accomplish this feat. It’s also far from clear that they should all want to. Read more »

Why Easy Money Is Not Enough: U.S. vs. the Eurozone

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
unemployment dispersion

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has promised to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro,” and the bank’s Outright Monetary Transactions initiative last September, aimed at pulling down crisis-country bond rates, no doubt calmed market fears of a eurozone breakup. But whereas eurozone sovereign bond spreads have narrowed, the gap in real economic performance – particularly unemployment – between the best and worst performers, as shown in today’s Geo-Graphic, has continued to grow precipitously. Compare this to the United States, which has a fiscal and banking union as well as a monetary one. There, jumps in unemployment rate dispersion across states caused by financial and other shocks are reversed in relatively short order. Read more »

Dr. Strangelove or: How China Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dollar

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
currency wars

China has since 1994 operated some form of currency peg, harder or softer, between its yuan and the U.S. dollar. While China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has in recent years railed against U.S. management of the dollar, and has called for “a new, stable, and secured global reserve currency,” this week’s Geo-Graphic illustrates why China has little incentive to press for such a thing. Read more »

Why NGDP Targeting is a Fad

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
fed policy vs ngdp targeting

Big-name economists have been lining up to show their support for yet another target-based approach to monetary policy making: nominal gross domestic product level (NGDP) targeting. The basic idea is that a central bank should aim to stabilize GDP, unadjusted for inflation, at around 4.5% as a means of stabilizing aggregate demand and avoiding recessions. NGDP targeting having once been the intellectual stomping ground of economists on the right (notably Scott Sumner), its newest supporters come overwhelmingly from the left (such as Christy Romer). Read more »

Should the United States Be the Military Lender of Last Resort?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
mali

In 2011, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that “there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. . . . to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” France in Mali is now a case in point; the Obama administration is providing only grudging assistance to an under-resourced French intervention.  As the small upper right figure in today’s Geo-Graphic shows, France has very little of the vehicular equipment necessary to prosecute the Mali operation—less than 5% of what the U.S. has in stock. Read more »

A GDP-Based IMF Would Boost China’s Voice . . . and America’s

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
reallocation

Since its creation after the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has grown from 29 countries to 188.  Representation, in terms of votes and quotas, has also become less connected with the relative weights of each country in the global economy.  As today’s Geo-Graphic shows, China would be by far the biggest beneficiary of an IMF voting reallocation based purely on gross domestic product, gaining eight percentage points.  What is much less well known, however, is that the United States would be the second biggest beneficiary, well above third-place Japan and fourth-place Brazil.  As the United States already has enough votes to wield unique veto power, this would have little practical effect on its already enormous influence.  But it does explain why the United States has been consistently more aligned with the so-called BRIC developing nations on IMF reform than with its fellow rich nations in Europe. Read more »

Should the Fed Follow the Bank of England and Subsidize Bank Lending?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
us and uk lending capitalization corrected

Last week’s Bank of England (BoE) poll of UK lenders turned up some good news: credit “availability” for both households and companies is on the rise – as we document in the upper right figure of today’s Geo-Graphic.  The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street was quick to take credit for the credit: “Lenders noted,” crowed the BoE, “that the Funding for Lending Scheme,” through which the BoE and UK Treasury have since August provided banks with cheap funds to boost their lending, “had been an important factor behind this increase.” Read more »

Is Federal Student Debt the Sequel to Housing?

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker
student loans and defaults

Back in March, we showed that the $1.4 trillion in U.S. direct federal student loans that will be outstanding by 2020 will amount to roughly 7.7% of the country’s gross debt. This is 6.3 percentage points higher than it would have been had the scheme not been nationalized in President Obama’s first term. Read more »