Is America Really a Third-World Country?

The end of the recession may be just the beginning of our problems.

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In the WaPo, Simon Johnson and James Kwak make just that case:

In a normal advanced economy, creating hundreds of billions of dollars in new money would not foster runaway inflation. As long as the economy is underperforming -- for example, with high unemployment -- stimulating the economy will only cause that "slack" to be taken up, the theory goes. Only when unemployment is low again can workers demand higher wages, forcing companies to raise prices.

But is the United States really a normal advanced economy anymore? We seem to have taken on some features of so-called emerging markets, including a bloated (and contracting) financial sector, overly indebted consumers, and firms that are trying hard to save cash by investing less. In emerging markets there is no meaningful idea of "slack;" there can be high inflation even when the economy is contracting or when growth is considerably lower than in the recent past.

If the United States is indeed behaving more like an emerging market, inflation is far easier to manufacture. People quickly become dubious of the value of money and shift into goods and foreign currencies more readily. Large budget deficits also directly raise inflation expectations. This would help Bernanke avoid deflation, but there is a great danger that unstable inflation expectations will become self-fulfilling. We do not want to become more like Argentina in 2001-2002 or Russia in 1998, when currencies collapsed and inflation soared.

Me:  Easy to manufacture, tough to eliminate -- especially without causing a double-dip recession.