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The Hand on the Lever (2014)
"The Hand on the Lever" in The New Yorker (July 21, 2014) by Nicholas Lemann
- I felt I wanted to talk about the Fed’s mission, and I wanted to do so in understandable terms, and to emphasize that unemployment is part of our mission. The recession has taken a particularly heavy toll on those who have less education and income—middle-income and low-income families—and the Fed’s concern with the job market is a theme I’ve wanted to get across. Why are we doing all these things that are in the newspapers all the time? I was trying to explain that we’re doing this to help American families who are struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
- Economics is a subject that really relates to core aspects of human well-being, and there’s a methodology for thinking about these things. This was a very appealing combination to me. Market systems are capable of massive breakdowns that can result in long, devastating periods of high unemployment. And I felt that economists had really learned something about how to address that.
- [New classical economics] was the starting point for a rightward shift in economics that went against the idea that monetary policy can improve macroeconomic outcomes.
- O.K., so what does standard new classical economics say? You should cut the wages of everybody who works for you. Because there are all the people standing outside the factory gates, and they have the same skill set as the people who work for you. You should at least be willing, according to this view, if not to hire them, to say to your own workers, ‘If you don’t take a pay cut, I’m going to replace you with them.’ But one goes around, actually talks to firms, and you’ll find that no firm would do that.