Scott Sumner finally got a cell phone last year. Almost everything else in his Newton (Mass.) apartment would be familiar to a time traveler from the Great Depression, right down to the steel barber’s chair and brass cash register. His new Mac confuses him. “I like old things,” he says. Sumner, who stands with the rounded shoulders of an academic economist, teaches at Bentley University in nearby Waltham. And by sheer force of will, he’s changing the way governments respond to economic crises.
On Sept. 13 the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting committee announced a third program of quantitative easing, which it vowed to continue until it saw substantial gains in the labor market. This open-ended commitment was a shift for the Fed, which in earlier rounds of quantitative easing had simply targeted a certain amount of bonds to buy.