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The Fed's Real Reaction Function: Monetary Policy, Inflation, Unemployment, Inequality-and Presidential Politics

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  • James K. Galbraith
  • Olivier Giovannoni
  • Ann J. Russo

Abstract

Using a VAR model of the American economy from 1984 to 2003, we find that, contrary to official claims, the Federal Reserve does not target inflation or react to "inflation signals." Rather, the Fed reacts to the very "real" signal sent by unemployment, in a way that suggests that a baseless fear of full employment is a principal force behind monetary policy. Tests of variations in the workings of a Taylor Rule, using dummy variable regressions, on data going back to 1969 suggest that after 1983 the Federal Reserve largely ceased reacting to inflation or high unemployment, but continued to react when unemployment fell "too low." Further, we find that monetary policy (measured by the yield curve) has significant causal impact on pay inequality-a domain where the Fed refuses responsibility. Finally, we test whether Federal Reserve policy has exhibited a pattern of partisan bias in presidential election years, with results that suggest the presence of such bias, after controlling for the effects of inflation and unemployment.

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Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_511.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_511

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  1. Jurgen A. Doornik & Henrik Hansen, 2008. "An Omnibus Test for Univariate and Multivariate Normality," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 70(s1), pages 927-939, December.
  2. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  3. Galbraith James K. & Hale J. Travis, 2006. "American Inequality: From IT Bust to Big Government Boom," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 3(8), pages 1-4, October.
  4. George A. Akerlof & William R. Dickens & George L. Perry, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Low Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 1-76.
  5. James A. Dorn, 2003. "Introduction," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 23(1), pages 1-9, Spring/Su.
  6. Gordon, Robert J, 1996. "The Time-varying NAIRU and its Implications for Economic Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 1492, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Elliott, Graham & Rothenberg, Thomas J & Stock, James H, 1996. "Efficient Tests for an Autoregressive Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 813-36, July.
  8. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Macroeconomics and Reality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-48, January.
  9. Burton Abrams & Plamen Iossifov, 2006. "Does the Fed Contribute to a Political Business Cycle?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 249-262, December.
  10. Nordhaus, William D, 1975. "The Political Business Cycle," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(2), pages 169-90, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Belke, Ansgar & Potrafke, Niklas, 2012. "Does government ideology matter in monetary policy? A panel data analysis for OECD countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 1126-1139.
  2. Jens Klose, 2011. "Political Business Cycles and Monetary Policy Revisited – An Application of a Two-Dimensional Asymmetric Taylor Reaction Function," Ruhr Economic Papers 0286, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  3. William Roberts Clark & Vincent Arel-Bundock, 2013. "Independent but Not Indifferent: Partisan Bias in Monetary Policy at the Fed," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(1), pages 1-26, 03.

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