Policymakers from the Federal Reserve to the President’s economic advisors may have shot themselves in the foot by making predictions.
According to former Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota President Narayana Kocherlakota, missed forecasts for economic goals such as the unemployment rate and inflation growth are contributing to the erosion of the public trust in government and the rise of anti-establishment candidates seen this year.
“This loss of faith matters. It contributes to the kind of uncertainty that can be a drag on the economy,” Kocherlakota wrote in a column for Bloomberg View on Monday.
“And it contributes to the lack of trust in government that lies behind the success of non-establishment presidential candidates, such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.”
In his column, Kocherlakota cited three major examples of the government miscalculation since the start of the recession:
- Then-Fed Chair Ben Bernanke predicting in 2007 during testimony to Congress that the subprime housing crisis was “contained.”
- The Fed’s Federal Open Markets Committee predicting 3.1% to 4.3% GDP growth between 2009 and 2012.
- President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors saying in November 2009 that the stimulus package would get the unemployment rate below 7% by the end of 2010.
None of these came to pass. And by giving — and subsequently underperforming — these predictions Kocherlakota said policymakers have jaded the public.
“These errors have had an adverse impact on public confidence — in the Fed’s ability to foresee crises and achieve its goals, in the power of fiscal stimulus to mitigate recessions,” wrote Kocherlakota.
Kocherlakota thinks that these missed forecasts from the government are contributing to this wariness, a sort-of “boy who cried wolf” scenario.
Kocherlakota also writes that the failure of these predictions is not in making them, but in the way they have been communicated. There’s nothing wrong with giving a general guide, but by announcing hard targets and not hedging these targets, the government is setting themselves up for failure.
This has been a general theme of Kocherlakota’s recent commentary, he’s recently opined on the Fed’s credibility and compared Fed communication to promising a picnic and not delivering. This conversation has also grown into a widespread conversation over the function of the Federal Reserve’s policymaking.
In offering solutions, Kocherlakota had two suggestions. On the one hand, he wrote that these institutions need to be more ambiguous by publishing margin of errors and the like to make it clear there is wiggle room.
Additionally, these groups have to recognise that when they say a number or tell Congress a crisis is “contained” the American people will take that as gospel, not just an academic speculation.