Besides screwing up the U.S. economy, Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is famous for obsuring all meaning from any words he utters.
On this he did not dissapoint at the Buttonwood Gathering sponspored by the Economist Magazine at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City earlier this week.
The topic was “The rearview mirror: A critique of public policy.” Panelists were supposed to address such questions as “Which response to the financial crisis has proven more effective—government spending or belt-tightening?” and “Has enough been done to tackle America’s high unemployment rate?” But they mostly talked about the debt crisis in Europe instead.
I went back to my digital recorder and replayed some of the things Greenspan said several times. It was difficult to tell where to put the commas.
“Actually, history looked very different back years ago and from that perpsective, what happened then, now, in order to view what we knew about the past as useful input into the future means that, let us state where we are right now.”
Don’t ask me what that means.
Among the more coherent things Greenpans said was that the main problem in the U.S. economy “is an extraordinary aversion to taking long-term risk.” No one wants to buy a home, invest in bonds or start a company, anymore. Go figure.
And jobs? Don’t expect companies to bring back jobs.
“When you sit on an executive body session within a corporation, the issues on the agenda is not how you create jobs, but how you destroy them. They don’t like to hire unless they have to,” he said.
“They’re not in the jobs creating business. They’re in the productivity-creating business, where their earnings come from … You have to get aggregate demand up.”
Yep. If we just had demand we might not have a malaise. Which is a bit like telling a man in the desert that if he only had water, he might not be thirsty.