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The Troubling Economics and Politics of Paying Interest on Bank Reserves: A Critique of the Federal Reserve’s Exit Strategy

  • Thomas I. Palley

The Federal Reserve has recently activated its newly acquired powers to pay interest on reserves of depository institutions. The Fed maintains its new policy increases economic efficiency and intends it to play a lead role in the exit from quantitative easing. This paper argues it is a bad policy that (1) has a deflationary bias; (2) is costly to taxpayers and that cost will increase as normal conditions return; and (3) establishes institutional lock-in that obstructs desirable changes to regulatory policy. The paper recommends repealing the Fed’s power to pay interest on bank reserves. Second, the Fed should repeal regulation Q that prohibits payment of interest on demand deposits. Third, the Fed should immediately implement an alternative system of asset based reserve requirements (liquidity ratios) that will improve monetary control and can help exit quantitative easing at no cost to the public purse. Now is the optimal time for this change. Lastly, the paper argues the new policy of paying interest on reserves reveals the troubling political economy governing the actions of the Federal Reserve and policy recommendations of the economics profession.

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Paper provided by Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst in its series Working Papers with number wp221.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp221
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  1. Thomas Palley, 2007. "Asset-based Reserve Requirements: A Response," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 575-578.
  2. Thomas Palley, 2003. "Asset Price Bubbles and the Case for Asset-Based Reserve Requirements," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 46(3), pages 53-72, May.
  3. Todd Keister & Antoine Martin & James McAndrews, 2008. "Divorcing money from monetary policy," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 41-56.
  4. Thomas Palley, 2004. "Asset-based reserve requirements: reasserting domestic monetary control in an era of financial innovation and instability," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 43-58.
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