For most of its history, the Federal Reserve has been dominated by bankers and orthodox economists, who kill the recovery at the first sign of inflationary risks. Happily, the Fed today is led by Janet Yellen, a very uncharacteristic Fed chair who spent most of her career as a labor economist, of all things. Yellen is aware of the changes in the structure of labor markets and is unlikely to jump the gun on raising rates, though it's always possible that she could be outvoted. The risk today is not that an improving jobs picture will set off inflation. It's that even tight labor markets, by themselves, will not generate enough pressure for wage increases, because workers have lost so much bargaining power.
To get back to that level and maybe even surpass it, we need someone in charge at the Federal Reserve who understands that creating conditions that increase the purchasing power of American workers' paychecks is a part of her mandate. From what she's said and done so far, it appears Janet Yellen is exactly that kind of Fed chair.
If the ECB is willing to use all its available tools without limit, there is little reason to doubt that it can hit its inflation target of close to 2%. However, making that policy commitment credible remains a great challenge because of the controversy and dissent about acquiring risky government debt.
With inflation still running at 1.7 percent and downside risks such as the slowing world economy, there's no excuse for the Fed to be throwing people out of work by raising interest rates. Let's hope that public pressure and an improved debate over Fed policy can keep this country moving toward full employment.
Design changes in Ebola management protocols make it highly probable that the Ebola hazard in America will be successfully contained. In contrast, the hazard of wealth-concentration policies implemented by central banks is not under containment. This problem threatens the very fabric of democratic enterprise.
Fear of resurgent inflation has been a defining element of U.S. economic policy over the last five years, driving federal spending reductions, personal income tax increases, and, just this month, the end of the Federal Reserve's Quantitative Easing program. But that broad-based inflation has not materialized and we are left asking why?