Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Fed should do more to pump up economy

The weak jobs report on Friday showed the trends are headed in the right direction but not nearly fast enough. The unemployment rate dropped last month from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent, but only because more people stopped looking for work, and the economy added just 96,000 jobs. With no immediate help expected from Congress, the person best situated to spur economic growth is Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. When the Fed meets next week, it needs to take more aggressive action.

The Fed has limited tools available to indirectly encourage more employment, but lately it has been idle while the country's economic growth has slowed from 4.1 percent at the end of 2011 to 1.7 percent in the second quarter of 2012. It's true that the benchmark interest rate has already been cut to near zero — one way the Fed has to make borrowing costs cheaper and stimulate activity — and the Fed has initiated multiple rounds of asset purchases of long-term Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, known as "quantitative easing," where cash is pumped into the economy. That helped increase employment by an estimated 2 million jobs. But Bernanke acknowledged in a recent speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that America continues to suffer from a stagnant job market that, if allowed to linger, has the potential to cause "structural damage" to the economy.

The factors Bernanke pointed to as slowing down the economy include spending cuts at the federal and state levels that are tamping down employment and growth, the problematic housing sector, and the crisis in the euro zone. A new stimulus package could forestall state and local government layoffs or begin employing the long-term unemployed. And Congress could change the housing situation by encouraging more relief for underwater homeowners.

But it would be easier to bring rain to drought-stricken land than to get Congress to cooperatively tackle the country's economic woes. Bernanke knows it is up to the Fed. His speech all but promised that additional actions will be taken to foster job creation, quite a departure from the typically abstruse language used by Fed chairmen. The next opportunity to unveil plans is at a policymaking committee meeting next week, and plenty of ideas are being floated, including additional asset purchases and a promise to continue the low interest rate beyond its current forward guidance date of late 2014. Another suggestion is that the Fed could offer low-cost financing for specific areas of lending such as mortgages. That would focus economic aid to the areas most in need of renewed activity.

Republicans are lining up against Bernanke. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, objects to any new measures by the Fed and would dump Bernanke if he wins November's election. But at the moment, Bernanke is the best hope unemployed Americans have for some relief.

Comments
Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

Looking back at 2017 through the eyes of editorial cartoonists

The annual Editorial Cartoon Round-Up is a thought-provoking recap of a momentous 2017. The gallery containing 32 cartoons from some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country is made available by the Washington Post News Service & Syndicat...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17