Good new Martin Wolf column out comparing the U.S. experience in this deflationary deleveraging with what has happened in Japan:
The good news is that the asset price bubbles themselves were far smaller in the US than in Japan (see charts below). Furthermore, the US central bank has been swifter in recognising reality, cutting interest rates quickly to close to zero and moving towards “unconventional” monetary policy.
The bad news is that the debate over fiscal policy in the US seems even more neanderthal than in Japan: it cannot be stressed too strongly that in a balance-sheet deflation, with zero official interest rates, fiscal policy is all we have. The big danger is that an attempt will be made to close the fiscal deficit prematurely, with dire results. Again, the US administration’s proposals for a public/private partnership, to purchase toxic assets, look hopeless. Even if it can be made to work operationally, the prices are likely to be too low to encourage banks to sell or to represent a big taxpayer subsidy to buyers, sellers, or both. Far more important, it is unlikely that modestly raising prices of a range of bad assets will recapitalise damaged institutions. In the end, reality will come out. But that may follow a lengthy pretence.