Christopher Cotton, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics at Queen’s University, where he holds the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy and is the Director for the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy.
Before deciding whether we should start to reopen the economy, we need to understand what it is that we are trying to accomplish through the shutdown. If the shutdown is intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, then we have room to start slowly loosening shutdown restrictions today. If, however, our objective is to minimize the number of Canadians that become infected or die from the disease, which seems to be the objective of public health officials today, then the shutdown may need to continue indefinitely. Read More »
The nominal interest rate can be decomposed into the sum of the real interest rate and expected inflation through an economic relationship called the Fisher equation. While monetary policy typically works by adjusting short-run nominal interest rates, economic theory suggests that it is the real interest rate that influences borrowing and lending decisions. How much of an adjustment to the nominal interest rate passes through to affect the real interest rate – and hence the real economy – will depend on the response of inflation expectations.
Furthermore, central banks may wish to directly influence inflation expectations to avoid falling into a liquidity trap or to achieve additional stimulus when nominal interest rates are exceptionally low. In 2009 the Federal Reserve lowered its policy interest rate to zero, which is considered to be the lower limit, effectively losing its main policy tool. In response, it turned to unconventional monetary policy operations such as forward guidance (promising to keep interest rates low for an extended period of time) and large-scale asset purchase programs (often referred to as Quantitative Easing). If these unconventional policies are able to directly move inflation expectations when short-run nominal interest rates are constrained then the Federal Reserve would have the means to affect real interest rates when its preferred policy tool is not available.Read More »
Christopher Cotton, Ph.D., is a Professor of Economics at Queen’s University where he holds the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair of Economic & Financial Policy and is the Director of the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy. Neil Renwick M.D., Ph.D, is a Clinician Scientist and Head of the Laboratory of Translational RNA Biology at Queen’s University and an Associate Attending Physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital in New York City.
Last week, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a plea to the rest of the country: “Help New York. We’re the ones hit right now… We need relief. We need relief for nurses working 12-hour shifts. We need relief for doctors. Help us now and we will return the favor.”
This request is based on the fact that states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan are being hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic now, and are likely to see their apex in the next week or two, while other states are unlikely to reach their peak until later this spring. Today, as New York faces a shortage of health care workers, there are other places in the U.S. with excess medical capacity, where doctors and nurses not yet being pushed beyond their breaking point.
We claim such an argument not only applies to doctors and nurses but also applies to life-saving ventilators as well.Read More »
Thor Koeppl is a Professor of Economics and RBC Fellow at Queen’s University. He also serves as a Scholar and member of the National Council and Monetary Policy Council at the CD Howe Institute.
Imagine you are driving your car on an alpine road. You see some rocks starting to fall, a rockslide! What do you do? Slam on the brakes. Stop. You take a deep breath and, after a sigh of relief that you kind of dodged it, you think: So, what’s next? How do I get past that rock slide?
This is where we are at in Canada in our response to the current CoVid-19 pandemic. We brought the economy pretty much to a full stop. It is fair to say that this reaction will likely save Canadians being fully engulfed in the rock slide. We yet do not know how big the benefit will be in terms of lives saved or how large the costs will be on the economic side, but we did the right thing. Act on the side of caution and hit the brakes.
Soon, hopefully, there comes the time to catch a breath and look forward to see how we can navigate the medium-run fall out from the pandemic. And this is where economists and the way they tend to think can help us a lot. After all, economists are “social engineers” that deal with problems where individual behaviour needs to be steered in the right direction to achieve better outcomes for society.Read More »