Though multiple factors contributed to the current recession, the main cause was the worldwide COVID shutdowns that forced people to change their spending habits, economist Austan Goolsbee tells Newsmax.
The former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Barack Obama told "John Bachman Now" on Thursday that economic stimulus checks were among the contributors in the United States, but the recession has been worldwide; consequently, the so-called "money printing" that critics point to can't take all — or even most — of the blame.
"I think the main thing that happened is we had a tremendous pandemic which shifted what we Americans — and a lot of other countries, too — spend their money on," Goolsbee told host John Bachman. "So we normally spend our money on services. Because of the pandemic, a lot of that was shut down, either through lockdowns or from people not wanting to go to work, so you couldn't spend money on services."
At that point, he said, "Everybody shifted to buying physical goods and the price of physical goods overloaded the supply chain and drove the prices through the roof."
Inflation, he noted, has been strongest on physical goods.
"But the fact that we still have [the] highest inflation in 40 years in Germany, in China, in a bunch of places that did not do a stimulus, I think at least makes you think that the stimulus is not the only thing going on," Goolsbee said.
Though interest rates will need to be raised in response to inflation, Goolsbee said there is no need to fear the sky-high rates of the 1970s and '80s.
The Federal Reserve cut the interest rate to effectively zero and "engaged in a bunch of other unconventional monetary policy," Goolsbee said, "because we were afraid that the whole world was going to collapse."
But, "once it became clear that we're not in the kind of cataclysmic emergency that they thought, I think it's totally natural that they would go back to normal, and raise the rates back to kind of the what we saw before the pandemic arrived."
"Overtightening," however, could launch the country into a recession, he said.
With recession "definitely a possibility," there are still issues like the Russian invasion of Ukraine that is spiking fuel prices globally, Goolsbee said.
"Sometimes you've got to bite the bullet on some of those things for geopolitical reasons, if we can put the COVID era behind us, which I kind of got my fingers crossed," he said. "I do think there's at least one silver lining, which is we can go back to spending money on services and ease the supply chain pressure on physical goods. I think that'd be a great relief to people. You know, if you could go to the grocery store and not see that kind of inflation."
With the job market the strongest part of the economy, "We gotta hope that the economic timetable is faster than normal," he said. "Normally, when you come out of recessions it can take years."
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