From Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal" we grasp the unconscionableness of a few technocrats:
[T]his looks like pure concession to political intimidation — a Fed refusing to do anything that would let Republicans accuse it of helping Obama. And for the sake of its own political comfort, the Fed is essentially betraying the unemployed.
All in all, the degree of elite failure in this crisis is just stunning.
I heard part of Ben Bernanke's press conference this week, and what I heard made me wonder if it was Bernanke speaking, or Lewis Carroll. Although we're doing very little today, said the chairman, the economy isn't as robust as we once thought; indeed one could say it's downright sluggish and likely to remain that way for some time to come. And should the economy remain sluggish for some time to come we at the Fed can always do more.
Or, just to extend our literary theme, Bernanke sounded more like Sancho Panza than the gentleman we really needed, Don Quixote. The latter, too, left a life of relative comfort and specialized erudition to brave cutthroats and counterfeits--and he didn't give up so easily. The Don may have been, well, quixotic, but in the face of vulgar treachery his nobility of conscience was almost inexhaustible; it took far more than a rowdy band of megalomaniacal Eric Cantors in doublets to subdue his chivalrous sense of duty.
Ezra Klein sees a pandemic of pusillanimity:
The Federal Reserve can act — or, at the least, it says it can act — but it doesn’t want to. The president would like to act, but can’t do it without Congress. Democrats in Congress would like to act, but can’t do it without Republicans in Congress. Republicans in Congress can act, but they won’t.
Broadly, is pusillanimity the right word? I guess not--it definitely applies to the Fed, yet in Republicans one finds only the boldest of crackpotted nihilism. But for sure neither pusillanimous nor quixotic applies to the president or his party. They know, as does anyone who's ever read an Intro to Macroeconomics text, precisely and realistically what should be done to boost the recovery.
And in Klein's list of "institutional actors" responsible for this mess of prolonged sluggishness and inaction, he omits only one--the most critical one: the electorate.