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Bill Dudley

The Fed Is Really Running Out of Firepower

Central bank officials aren't bluffing when they say that only government spending can rescue the U.S. economy.

Over to you, Steve.

Over to you, Steve.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

No central bank wants to admit that it’s out of firepower. Unfortunately, the U.S. Federal Reserve is very near that point. This means America’s future prosperity depends more than ever on the government’s spending plans — something the president and Congress must recognize.

There’s always something more that the Fed can do. It can push down longer-term interest rates by buying more Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, or by committing to keep buying for a longer period of time. It can promise to keep short-term interest rates lower for longer, or until inflation and the unemployment rate reach their targets. It can put a specified ceiling on long-term interest rates (a maneuver that economists call yield-curve control). It can even take interest rates negative (a move that Fed officials have so far rejected).