"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen


"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister


"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont


"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister


"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Friday, December 09, 2011

Larry Summers Poor Memory on the IMF by Dean Baker
Larry Summers, who was Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and a top Obama economic advisor, apparently has forgotten the IMF's role in the world economy. In an oped column he told readers that:
"From the problems of Britain and Italy in the 1970s, through the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and the Mexican, Asian and Russian financial crises of the 1990s, the IMF has operated by twinning the provision of liquidity with strong requirements that those involved do what is necessary to restore their financial positions to sustainability. There is ample room for debate about precise policy choices the fund has made. But the IMF has consistently stood for the proposition that the laws of economics do not and will not give way to political considerations."
This is arguably wrong as a general proposition, but it is certainly wrong in reference to the East Asian bailouts in 1990s that were largely engineered by Larry Summers and the U.S. Treasury Department, which controls the IMF. The conditions demanded in the East Asian bailouts required the countries in crisis in repay loans to western banks in full.
It allowed them to get the money needed to make the repayments by having the dollar rise in value against the currencies of the region (i.e. Robert Rubin's strong dollar policy).It was not only the East Asian countries that deliberately lowered the value of their currency against the dollar, developing countries throughout the world adopted a policy of accumulating massive amounts of reserves in order to avoid ever being in the same situation as the East Asian countries.
This led to the enormous trade deficits that the U.S. has incurred in subsequent years. This situation was not sustainable, contrary to Summers' assertion that the IMF puts countries on a sustainable course.
In fact, the trade deficit between the United States and the rest of the world was the major imbalance in the global economy in the last decade. It created the gap in demand that was filled by the stock bubble in the 90s and the housing bubble in the last decade. It is striking that the Post's opinion pages are only open to people who try to conceal this fact rather than economists who try to explain this history to readers. 
Italy was already letting the IMF look at its books and there were rumors of a deal. Summers is saying the IMF should apply a structural adjustment program to Italy if the ECB is accommodating. Summers writes,
Third, when engaging individual members of a monetary union, the IMF cannot assess the prospects of one member in isolation. If some countries are to enjoy reduced trade deficits, others, most notably Germany, must face reduced surpluses. If there is no clear path to reduced surpluses there is no clear path to reduced deficits and hence to solvency. More generally, the sustainability of any program must be assessed in the context of realistic projections of the economic environment. The IMF must not approve adjustment programs that are unrealistic.
Twice, he emphasizes the point that European banks need to be recapitalized.

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