Paul Krugman on his blog today denies that he advocated that the Fed create a housing bubble in 2002:
(Nor, by the way, was I actually calling for a housing bubble in 2002. I was, instead, trying to highlight the problems of getting monetary traction in an economy that “wants” a negative interest rate — which is exactly what everyone is talking about now.)
Krugman has repeatedly issued shifting denials about what he said. So let’s just look at what he actually said in context. Here’s an excerpt from my book Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis:
On August 2, 2002, Krugman wrote an article in which he said that what the Fed needed to do in order to prevent a recession was to create a housing bubble. His statement, quoted in its full context, was as follows:
A few months ago the vast majority of business economists mocked concerns about a “double dip,” a second leg to the downturn. But there were a few dogged iconoclasts out there, most notably Stephen Roach at Morgan Stanley. As I’ve repeatedly said in this column, the arguments of the double-dippers made a lot of sense. And their story now looks more plausible than ever.
The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn’t a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of PIMCO put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the NASDAQ bubble.
Judging by Mr. Greenspan’s remarkably cheerful recent testimony, he still thinks he can pull that off. But the Fed chairman’s crystal ball has been cloudy lately; remember how he urged Congress to cut taxes to head off the risk of excessive budget surpluses? And a sober look at recent data is not encouraging.
Curiously, he commented that Alan Greenspan needed a recovery “to avoid awkward questions about his own role in creating the stock market bubble”, but didn’t elaborate on what that role was. He closed by saying, “But wishful thinking aside, I just don’t understand the grounds for optimism. Who, exactly, is about to start spending a lot more?”
It is important to be clear on what Krugman was saying here. His earlier record on the housing bubble is unambiguous. He had repeatedly advocated that the Fed should lower interest rates for the explicit purpose of creating a boom in housing as a route to economic recovery. Here, he was implicitly acknowledging that the numerous interest rate cuts that had already been made had not solved the problem. The reason he offered was that people were still not spending enough, and his argument had been that the Fed should cut interest rates even further. He attributed the view that the Fed “needs to create a housing bubble” to Paul McCulley, but there can be no mistake, reading his remark in context, that Krugman was in agreement. This is evident in his prefacing the remark by saying that people warning of a double-dip recession “made a lot of sense”, by his own (not McCulley’s) comment that to “fight the recession” the Fed “needs” to do so, and by his expressed pessimism that the Fed could “pull that off”.