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Gerald Epstein

The Great Financial Crisis of 2007–2008, like the Great Depression of the 1930s, focused the American public’s attention – and ire – not just on Wall Street, but also on the Federal Reserve (the Fed) – the US central bank. In normal times, the Fed operates under the radar, generating intense interest from investors, and mostly yawns from everyone else. But at times of financial crisis, like 1929, or 2007–2008, or even 1979 when the Fed raised interest rates sky high, piercing scrutiny and conflict breaks out regarding the Fed’s policy. Indeed, at times like that, more than just this or that policy is up for grabs. The Fed’s whole institutional structure and its very raison d’être comes under attack. Why did the Fed let the economy crash? Why did it raise interest rates so high? Why did it bail out Wall Street while leaving ‘main street’ high and dry? Who benefits from the Fed’s policies? Who really pulls the strings there? Do we even need a Federal Reserve?

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Gerald Epstein

As Jerry Ford left the White House he handed Jimmy Carter three envelopes, instructing him to open them one at a time as problems became overwhelming. After a year, Carter opened the first envelope. It said, "attack Jerry Ford." He did. A year later, Carter opened the second envelope. It said, "attack the Federal Reserve." He did. Three years into his term, and even more overwhelmed by the economy, Iran, Afghanistan and so forth, Carter opened the third envelope. It said: "prepare three envelopes." Paul Volcker, January 1981

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Gerald Epstein

In August 1979, virtually everyone with wealth and in the know were trying to get out of dollars. They were buying gold. They were buying anything "real" they could get their hands on. The dollar was in a free fall. And after presiding over three years of rapid, but inflationary economic growth, so was Jimmy Carter.

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Gerald Epstein

Trumponomics, argues this economist, may look like Reaganomics, but it is more about political power than optimal economics strategies. Economists should be aware of this, but many, even progressives, are not. The author provides a way of looking at and criticizing Trumponomics for the popular, power-aggrandizing strategy and ultimately deeply dangerous set of policies he thinks it is.

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Gerald Epstein

The crucial significance of the Federal Reserve System in the making of U.S. macroeconomic policy has once again been made painfully apparent. The stagnation experienced by the U.S. economy since 1979 has, as its proximate cause, the restrictive monetary policies implemented by the U.S. central bank.

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Gerald Epstein

The question “Why do central banks do what they do?” seems like an obviously important question, especially considering that political straitjackets limit countercyclical fiscal policy, leaving central banks as the dominant macroeconomic policy- making institution in most countries. Yet, mainstream macroeconomics has given very little thought to analyzing the economic and political sources of central bank goals and conduct. Rather, the implicit assumption of most mainstream analysis is that central banks try to make policy in the general interests of society as a whole. From this perspective, “poor” monetary policy stems from failures of theory, judgment or forecasting rather than from a lack of concern for the public interest.

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Gerald Epstein

This paper introduces a Marx-Keynes-Kalecki model of the political economy of comparative central banking which suggest that monetary policy is determined by four key factors: capital-labor relations; industry-finance relations; the degree of central bank independence; and the position of the economy in the world economy. The paper presents econometric evidence suggesting that large OECD countries that have more independent central banks, more speculative financial markets, and more conflictual capital-labor relations, have lower rates of capacity utilization. This evidence is consistent with the model's predictions about the relationship between political-economic structure and central bank policy.

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Gerald Epstein

Hyman Minsky has been an astute observer and analyst of central banking for many years. In fact, in 1957 he published his first professional paper on the subject (Minsky 1982). As usual, on this subject as on most others, Minsky poses a challenge the standard way of looking at things and an opening for a whole line of research previously though closed.

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Gerald Epstein

This paper presents an open economy Marx-Kalecki model, tested by US data, which shows that the effect of macroeconomic policy on financial and industrial capitalists' profits depends in the exchange rate regime and the degree of international capital mobility. In particular, under flexible exchange rates, expansionary monetary policy will improve industrial capitalists' profits, but, by generating inflation, will harm financial capitalists' profitability.

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Gerald Epstein

“Financialization” refers to the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operations of the economy and its governing institutions, both at the national and international levels. Many questions arise when considering the increased role of finance in the world economy. What are its dimensions? What is causing it? What impact is it having on income distribution within and between countries? What is its impact on economic growth? What impact is financialization having on the nature and distribution of political power within and between countries? What policies can be implemented to reduce the negative effects of financialization while preserving its positive effects, if there are any?