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Greenspan Says Government ‘Activism’ Hampering U.S. Recovery

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said a surge in U.S. government “activism,” including fiscal stimulus, housing subsidies and new regulations, is holding back the economic recovery.

Increased bond issuance by the Treasury Department crowds out borrowers with the weakest credit ratings, Greenspan said in an article in International Finance, published on the Web today. At least half of the shortfall in companies’ capital spending “can be explained by the shock of vastly greater government-created uncertainties embedded in the competitive, regulatory and financial environments” since the failure of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, Greenspan said.

Greenspan’s conclusions fit with his long-held free-market ideology and may aid Republican lawmakers who argue that cutting federal spending now will help spur job growth. Critics including members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission have said Greenspan’s failure to regulate the mortgage market last decade helped fuel the housing bubble whose bursting precipitated the financial crisis.

“Much intervention turns out to hobble markets rather than enhancing them,” said Greenspan, 84, who was appointed Fed chairman by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and served until 2006. “Any withdrawal of action to allow the economy to heal could restore some, or much, of the dynamic of the pre-crisis decade, without its imbalances.”

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