For a while, I have been worried that the next decade may well be a return to 1970's economics, with bipartisan commitment to large government, ever-expanding government micro-management of... everything, growth-destroying taxes, and consumer-unfriendly protection of dead US industries.
Now, Megan McArdle points to an article that hints that the stagflation of the 1970's may be back as well.
Inflation and sluggish growth haven't joined in that ugly brew called
stagflation since the 1970s. They may not be ready for a reunion, but
they are making simultaneous threats to the economy and battling one
might only encourage the other.
Among a batch of economic readings today, the Labor Department
reported that import prices jumped 1.7% last month. The data included
troubling signs that consumer products, many imported from China, have
caught the inflation bug. The signs pointing to slowing growth included
a sharp deterioration in consumers' mood, as measured by the
Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, and a worsening
outlook for manufacturers, revealed in the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York's Empire State Manufacturing survey for February. The government
also reported that U.S. industrial production only increased slightly
during January, as colder weather elevated utilities output and offset
sharp declines in the auto and housing sectors. If indeed inflation is
teaming up with slower growth, it means big headaches for policy
makers, in particular Ben Bernanke. The Federal Reserve chief in
congressional testimony yesterday suggested that he is willing to keep
lowering interest-rates if the economy stalls. But, naturally, he will
have less room to do so if those lower rates would accelerate inflation
to unacceptable levels.