SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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MONETARY POLICY AND
THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on Financial Services,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 11:04 a.m., in Room 2128, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Michael G. Oxley [chairman of the committee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Oxley, Leach, Baker, Castle, Royce, Lucas of Oklahoma, Ney, Kelly, Paul, Gillmor, Ryun, Manzullo, Jones, Ose, Toomey, Hart, Capito, Feeney, Hensarling, Garrett of New Jersey, Murphy, Brown-Waite, Barrett of South Carolina, Harris, Frank, Kanjorski, Waters, Sanders, Maloney, Velazquez, Watt, Hooley, Carson, Sherman, Meeks, Lee, Inslee, Moore, Capuano, Hinojosa, Lucas of Kentucky, Crowley, Clay, Israel, Ross, McCarthy, Baca, Miller, Emanuel, Scott, Davis, and Bell.
The CHAIRMAN. This hearing of the Committee on Financial Services will come to order.
We are meeting today to receive the semiannual testimony of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Pursuant to the Chair's prior announcement and Rule 3(f)(2) of the rules of the committee, the Chair will recognize the Chairs and ranking members of the full committee and the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology, leave their respective designees for opening statements. The statements of all the members may be placed in the record.
The Chair now recognizes himself for 5 minutes.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and welcome back to the committee. All of us on the Financial Services Committee look forward to our discussions with you on U.S. economic performance, which so directly affects the lives and livelihoods of all Americans.
At this unique moment of war and renewal there are many who deserve credit for the recovering economy. First and foremost are the American people, the American investor who never panicked and never lost faith, and the American consumer who believes that the economy will continue to improve.
Our American companies have retooled in accordance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, thus improving financial reporting and bolstering confidence. Our markets continue to be the most productive capital creation organizations in the world.
Despite predictions that companies would delist, they have not done so. In fact, companies continue to seek new listings in our deep and vibrant U.S. markets.
Mr. Chairman, the economy is recovering nicely from the mild recession of 2001. The market is back to pre-recession levels, fixed investment is up, unemployment is down from its peak, exports are up, the balance of payments is down, and none of the Blue Chip 50 forecasters predict growth rates of less than the mid-3 percent rate or inflation higher than the mid-2 percent range for this year or next. Most of the Blue Chip forecasts are much more optimistic.
Two items that have everyone's attention are the employment figures and the deficit numbers. There is understandable concern about both. I am sure we would all prefer budget surpluses and would like every American who seeks a job to have one right now. However, I believe these are temporary problems attributable to temporary conditions.
Despite some alarmist commentary, the deficit of numbers for this year are understandable given the terror attack, a recession, corporate governance problems, and war. While they are higher than we would like, even after all of these events the deficit is still at about 3.5 percent of GDP. According to the President's budget, the deficit will be half that level in 5 years. The alternative would be to stop investing in economic stimulus or to fight against terror on the cheap, and I don't think the American people would want either of these options.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I know you favor pay-as-you-go budgeting. However, the President's tax cuts have helped to sustain the U.S. economy, especially in the face of recent shocks. In addition to the headline grabbers of terrorism, war, and corporate scandal, we faced a European currency unit that sank in value by a third, which damaged the value of our exports.
Regarding employment levels, Mr. Chairman, I hope that you will be able to add some perspective to the national debate. When I studied economics and until just a few years ago, the accepted theory was that roughly 6 percent was considered full employment. This is about where we are now. During the bubble economy of the late 1990s, that rate went down in the 4 percent range and briefly hovered near 3.9 percent. To many of us it seemed as if one of the laws of economics had been repealed. Then, with the recession, unemployment increased again over 6 percent, though I should quickly add that we have been seeing steady job creation since last July.
Mr. Chairman, I think most of us on both sides of the aisle believe the American economy will create additional jobs and their quality will improve as the economy continues to adapt to changing times. We would welcome your thoughts on job creation and what we in Congress might do to help.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I look forward to your appearance here again, which is always a great occasion for this committee. We thank you for your stewardship of the economy.
And I now yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank, for his opening statement.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Michael G. Oxley can be found on page 46 in the appendix.]
Mr. FRANK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Greenspan, in your appearance today I think you come at a time when one of the subjects that is often debated here, namely the appropriate level for the interest rates that you set, is not really controversial. There is a general consensus that the current rate is appropriate. Indeed, we are apparently a sort of historic low, at least in recent times, both for your weight and interest rates, and I congratulate you on both.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But there is a broader set of questions that is really deeply troubling. We may be at an inflection point in the American economy, and I think we are at the point where the old phrase of political economy has become very relevant because we are, as has been noted, in a period of growth, significant growth.
We are coming out of a recession. Unfortunately, we are coming out of this recession with less job growth than we have seen, I think, ever, and certainly in any recent history. To the extent that there is something somewhat prolonged about thisI won't say permanent because nothing is permanent, but if it is prolonged, and today we have this problem, it does appear clearly that the amount of job growth we are getting, given the level of GDP, has dropped significantly.
What we have, however, is not simply that fact. There is a growing perception in the country that the benefits of growth and of increased productivity are being very unequally shared, excessively unequally shared.
Let us be very clear. We are capitalists, as we should be. Inequality is not a bad thing; it is necessary to our system. Our market system with its incentives and its allocation mechanisms doesn't work without inequality. On the other hand, I think it is clear that inequality left entirely unchecked might get out of the bounds where it is reasonable. And too much inequality can have serious negative consequences.
I think our job is, in part, to try to contain excessive inequality, because we can't have inequality that is more than we need for efficiencywe obviously need someand can have damaging social consequences. I think we are on the verge of that.
Three levels: First of all, there are the real effects of inequalitypeople without jobs, people without health care, people inadequately educated. I and many of my colleagues are moved primarily by that. But I recognize that dwelling simply on the moral aspects and the social cost of inequality may not be enough.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As Adlai Stevenson once said when he was told he had all the thinking people on his side, Yes, but I need a majority. Because it was cracks like that that helped him not get a majority.
But I don't, unfortunately, believe that moral arguments are enough, so let me give you two other arguments, some of which you have yourself, I think, taken note of as to why we have got to tackle this inequality thing which is being exacerbated by the reality today of jobs which are lagging what they should be by normal rules in the economy.
Essentially what we have, I think, is a situation in which a combination of factorsand you talked about this in the recent speech about flexibility. The rewards of capital have, I think, gone beyond what they should be relative to labor. That is, I think there is both the reality and certainly a perceptionI believe the realitythat the owners of capital are getting a disproportionately unequal share, damagingly so, of the gains.
Now, that is partly by technology, it is partly by a number of real economy factors, but it has been exacerbated by public policynot by the fact of tax cuts, but by the composition of the tax cuts, by policies that have eroded the ability of organized labor to represent people, by a failure to keep the minimum wage updated, by a number of policies, by the way in which globalization has been pursued. And in consequence you have the following, not simply, as I said, the negative consequences.
You have a resistance in this country increasingly to policies that you and many others think are in our best interest. Trade treaties will have a very hard time. The objections to outsourcing, no matter what the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers says about it, you are going to see increasing legislation restricting outsourcing. You are seeing difficulty in other public policies that people think are in our overall interest.
And the reason is in partI was in Davos, and I heard someone make a very interesting formulation; namely, that inequality has two aspects, between countries and within countries. Now, globalization has as its advantage reducing inequality between countries. But if it is carried out in a way that exacerbates inequality within countries, resistance will grow. And we are at that point.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So we are at that pointand I will finish in 30 seconds, Mr. Chairman. We are at the point where I believe that resentment at the excessive inequality is now an obstacle to many of the policies you would like to see and you warn against them.
And finallyand this one isn't certain yet, but we may be reaching a point, if we cannot change the situation or if the situation doesn't change, if job growth does not accelerate, it could have macroeconomic effects. To the extent that job gains are not what we would ordinarily see both in real spending power and in perception and consumer confidence, you may begin to see the consumer spending sector lag and not do what it ought to do in our economy.
So, as I said, it is not just the morality of it. Clearly, we are at the point where political resistance to much of what you think is wise in terms of increased efficiency, and increased flexibility is a significant factor, and we may be at the point where macroeconomically this also is a problem.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from New York, Mrs. Kelly.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Over the past 2-1/2 years, our country has experienced monumental and extraordinary events that shaped the nature of our work here in Washington and shaped our agenda. When we began last Congress, little did we know that we were going to be moving to block terrorist financing, oversee the longest close of the securities market since World War I, and push legislation that had to be pushed through to ensure the availability of commercial terrorism insurance. Certainly, I don't think anyone could have predicted the collapse at that point of Enron, Global Crossing, and WorldCom, or the subsequent loss of confidence that our markets endured.
But our committee and this Congress responded quickly to restore stability and confidence for the American people, and we passed legislation to improve our security and dry up terrorist financing with the Patriot Act.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As we crafted legislation, and especially the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, we were directed to try to improve on
The CHAIRMAN. You might make sure your mike is on.
Mrs. KELLY. My mike is on. Yes, it is.
We crafted legislation to improve corporate responsibility and increase the accounting oversight. We also passed legislation that would stimulate the economy. And we are very pleased, Mr. Chairman, that the Federal Reserve chose to keep the interest rates down and keep ratcheting them down, which helped to bringstabilize the economy and bring our economy now into the more active phase that we have entered.
I think with these reforms and many others, we all feel like protecting the security of the American peoplewhether it is national security, health, or economic and retirement securityis the most important thing that we should be doing here.
Today, as we hear from you, Mr. Greenspan, Chairman Greenspan, I know members of the committee have a lot of important questions, but I think most of us are very concerned about what our ranking member just spoke about. And that is, we need to know howwhat we can do, what you are doing and what we can do, from implying from what you say to us this morning, to continue to strengthen our dollar and to create new jobs and to support this economic growth.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for appearing with us here today, and I look forward to your testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady yields back.
The Chair is now pleased to recognize the gentlelady from New York, Mrs. Maloney.
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And good morning, Mr. Greenspan.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As Americans watch the hearing today, for many, their greatest economic concerns are the loss of 3 million private-sector jobs and a record-breaking $521 billion deficit. Despite improvement in some economic statistics, including GDP growth, the economy continues to perform extraordinarily poorly for the many people without jobs and for the large number of people with jobs who aren't enjoying any wage growth.
The Fed had done its part by putting its foot on the gas; the Federal funds rate is effectively zero. But we still have a net job loss of 2.2 million jobs, and President Bush is on track to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to end his term with fewer jobs than when he started.
The President claims to have a plan for both the jobs crisis and the deficit. The administration now says 2.6 million jobs will be created this year, and that their budget will cut the deficit in half in 5 years. Yet, a year ago, the administration estimated that nearly 2 million jobs would be created in the second half of 2003, and only 200,000 jobs were produced. Even worse, the President's chief economist is now praising the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign countries. Headlines across the country responded with astonishment this week, reading, Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas. And here we have some of the headlines across the country.
On the spending side, the President's new budget is a total fiction. Already the claim that it will cut the deficit in half in 5 years has been panned by Goldman Sachs, the Concord Coalition, the Committee for Economic Development, and Decision Economics, all of whom continue to forecast $500 billion deficits and more into the future.
The administration claims it will control spending by limiting domestic discretionary spending to under 1 percent this year, but domestic discretionary spending is only 15 percent of the entire budget, not enough to make a serious impact.
The budget also totally misleads by leaving out spending we know is coming, including but not limited to post-election funding for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; the long-term cost of the President's number one domestic priority, making tax cuts permanent; the cost of fixing the alternative minimum tax; the President's Mars space initiative; and more.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman Greenspan, I hope you will address the problems of the job deficit and the budget deficit at length in your testimony today. Thank you for being here.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired.
We now turn to the distinguished Chairman of the Fed, Chairman Greenspan. Thank you again for appearing, and welcome back.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Carolyn B. Maloney can be found on page 55 in the appendix.]
STATEMENT OF ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
Mr. GREENSPAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Before I start, I would like to wish you a happy birthday. And as said to you inside, I trust you will soon be shooting your age on the golf course. The trouble is, you probably will.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Chairman, I hope I am playing with you at the time.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I will be duly impressed.
May I request that the full statement that I am about to excerpt from be included for the record?
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am pleased to be here today to present the Federal Reserve's Monetary Policy Report to the Congress. When I testified before this committee in July, I reported that conditions had become a good deal more supportive of economic expansion over the previous few months. A notable reduction in geopolitical concerns, strengthening confidence in economic prospects, and an improvement in financial conditions boded well for spending and production over the second half of the year. Still, convincing signs of a sustained acceleration and activity were not yet in evidence.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since then, the picture has brightened. The gross domestic product expanded vigorously over the second half of 2003. Progress in creating jobs, however, has been limited.
Looking forward, the prospects are good for sustained expansion of the U.S. economy. At the same time, increases in efficiency and a significant level of underutilized resources should help keep a lid on inflation.
In retrospect, last year appears to have marked a transition from an extended period of subpar economic performance to one of more vigorous expansion. Once again, household spending was the mainstay. Last year's reductions in personal income tax rates and the advance of rebates to those households that were eligible for the expanded child tax credit boosted the growth of real disposable personal income. The very low level of interest rates also encouraged household spending through a variety of channels.
The strengthening in capital spending over 2003 contributed importantly to the acceleration of real output. A growing confidence of business executives and the durability of the expansion, strong final sales, the desire to renew capital stocks after replacements had been postponed, and favorable financial conditions all contributed to a turnaround in equipment spending.
To a considerable degree, the gathering strength of capital spending reflects a substantial improvement in the financial condition of businesses over the past few years. Firms' profits rose steeply during 2003, following smaller gains in the previous 2 years. The profitability of the business sector was again propelled by a stunning increase in productivity. The vigorous advance represents a notable extension of the pick-up that started around the mid-1990s. Apparently, businesses are still reaping the benefits of the marked acceleration in technology.
The strong gains in productivity, however, have obviated robust increases in business payrolls. To date, the expansion of employment has significantly lagged increases in output. Gross separations from employment, two-fifths of which have been involuntary, are about what one would have expected from past cyclical experience, given the current pace of output growth. New hires and recalls from layoffs, however, are far below what historical experience indicates. To a surprising degree, firms seem to be able to continue identifying and implementing new efficiencies in their production processes, and thus have found it possible so far to meet increasing orders without stepping up hiring.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Productivity over the past few years has probably received a boost from the efforts of businesses to work off the stock of inefficiencies that had accumulated in the boom years. As those opportunities to enhance efficiency become scarcer and as managers become more confident in the durability of the expansion, firms will surely once again add to their payrolls.
A consequence of the rapid gains in productivity and slack in our labor and product markets has been sustained downward pressure on inflation. Inflation last year was in a range consistent with price stability. The recent performance of inflation has been especially notable in view of the substantial depreciation of the dollar in 2003. Ordinarily, currency depreciation is accompanied by a rise in dollar prices of imported goods and services because foreign exporters endeavor to avoid experiencing price declines in their own currencies which would otherwise result from the fall in the foreign exchange value of the dollar.
Reflecting the swing from dollar appreciation to dollar depreciation, the dollar prices of goods and services imported into the United States have begun to rise after declining on balance for several years, but the turnaround to date has been mild.
Although prospects for the U.S. economy look quite favorable, we need to remind ourselves that all forecasts are projections into an uncertain future. The fact that most professional forecasters perceive much the same benign short-term outlook that is our most likely expectation provides scant comfort. When the future surprises, history tells us, it often surprises us all. We must, as a consequence, remain alert to risks that could threaten the sustainability of the expansion.
Besides the chronic concern about a sharp spike in oil or natural gas prices, a number of risks can be identified. Of particular importance to monetary policymakers is the possibility that our stance could become improperly calibrated to evolving economic developments. To be sure, the Federal Open Market Committee's current judgment is that its accommodative posture is appropriate to foster sustainable expansion of economic activity. But the evidence indicates clearly that such a policy stance will not be compatible indefinitely with price stability and sustainable growth. The real federal funds rate will eventually need to rise toward a more neutral level. However, with inflation very low and substantial slack in the economy, the Federal Reserve can be patient in removing its current policy accommodation.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The outlook for the Federal budget deficit is another critical issue for policymakers. As you are well aware, after a brief period of unified budget surpluses around the beginning of this decade, the Federal budget has reverted to deficits. Budget projections from the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget indicate that very sizeable deficits are in prospect in the years to come.
As I have noted before, the debate over budget priorities appears to be between those advocating additional tax cuts and those advocating increased spending. Although some stories in recent weeks in the Congress and elsewhere have been directed at actions that would lower forthcoming deficits, to date, no effective constituency has offered programs to balance the budget. Our demographics, especially the retirement of the baby boom generation beginning in just a few years, mean that the ratio of workers to retirees will fall substantially. Without corrective action, this development will put substantial pressure on our ability in coming years to provide even minimal government services while maintaining entitlement benefits at their current level without debilitating increases in tax rates.
The fiscal issues that we face pose long-term challenges, but Federal budget deficits could cause difficulties even in the relatively near term. Should investors become significantly more doubtful that the Congress will take the necessary fiscal measures, an appreciable backup in long-term interest rates is possible, as prospects for outsized Federal demands on national saving become more apparent.
Addressing the Federal budget deficit is even more important in view of the widening U.S. current account deficit. These deficits are related because the large Federal dissavings represented by the budget deficit, together with relatively low rates of U.S. private saving, implies a need to attract savings from abroad to finance domestic private investment spending. To date, the U.S. current account deficit has been financed with little difficulty. Nonetheless, given the already substantial accumulation of dollar-denominated debt, foreign investors, both private and official, may become less willing to absorb ever-growing claims on U.S. residents.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Taking steps to increase our national saving through fiscal action to lower Federal budget deficits would help diminish the risks that a further reduction in the rate of purchase of dollar assets by foreign investors could severely crimp the business investment that is crucial for our long-term growth.
The large current account deficits and the associated substantial trade deficits pose another imperative, the need to maintain the degree of flexibility that has been so prominent a force for U.S. economic stability in recent years. The greatest current threat to that flexibility is protectionism. The costs of any new protectionist initiatives in the context of wide current account balances could significantly erode the flexibility of the global economy; consequently, creeping protectionism must be thwarted and reversed.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, in recent years, the U.S. economy has demonstrated considerable resilience to adversity. It has overcome significant shocks that in the past could have hobbled growth for a much longer period than they have in the current cycle. As I have noted previously, the U.S. economy has become far more flexible over the past 2 decades, and associated improvements have played a key role in lessening the effects of the recent adverse developments on our economy.
Looking forward, the odds of sustained robust growth are good although, as always, risks remain. The Congress can help foster sustainable expansion by taking steps to reduce Federal budget deficits and, thus, contribute to national saving and by continuing to pursue opportunities to open markets and promote trade.
For our part, the Federal Reserve intends to use its monetary policy tools to promote our goals of economic growth and maximum employment of our resources in an environment of effective price stability.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Hon. Alan Greenspan can be found on page 57 in the appendix.]
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And let me begin by referring to what I indicated in my opening remarks. That is, most of us, when we studied economics, were led to believe that 6 percent was considered to be full employment. And because of the boom in the late 1990s, some would say maybe a ''bubble,'' the unemployment rate went down at one point briefly to 3.9 percent.
Was the 3.9 or 4 percent an aberration? Would we expect to come back to what would traditionally be 6 percent? I think even the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation was based on the concept of full employment which, my understanding, was 6 percent.
So, I guess, let us start with that. It is almost like going back to Econ 101. And I can't think of a better professor than you to help the committee understand what changes, if any, have taken place over the last few years to perhaps change that equation.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Mr. Chairman, you are raising one of the most important questions which bedevil economists in our endeavor to get a sense of where the economy is going and what it is likely to look like, say, 10 years hence.
What we do know is that the change in the structure that evolved through the 1990s did bring the effective unemployment rate down. And indeed you may recall that we reached the 4 percent level and slightly less at essentially a low inflation rate, so that there was no evidence at that particular point that as the unemployment rate fell, we were raising inflationary pressures of the type that in earlier years we would almost have certainly seen.
Obviously, the changes in technology which have created a major improvement in productivity growth have been key factors here. And as we have observed in recent years, despite the weakness in economic activity, productivity has grown at an extraordinary pace. We must conclude from that, there have been some underlying shifts in the long-term structure of the American economy; and in my judgment, while we may not know where the unemployment rate, which is consistent with stable inflationactually, I should saystable prices, we don't know where it is, but it is clearly, from what we can judge, well under 6 percent.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I would not rule out the possibility that it is close down to the 4 percent level, and I would merely suggest that so far as policy is concerned, we don't hold a fixed view, but as policy evolves, try to get judgments as to what actually is happening in the economy to make judgments as to how far down unemployment can go and stay there.
The CHAIRMAN. So essentially you are saying that 6 percent is no longer the benchmark that we would consider full employment that we relied on for, what, 50 years?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, it varied over time. Remember, in the early part of the post-World War II period, the general view was that, indeed, 4 percent was the unemployment rate which was consistent with price stability. It then altered very significantly during the 1970s and the 1980s, and it has since come probably almost all the way back down to where it was in the early part of the post-World War II period.
My own personal impression is that we have created a degree of flexibility in our economy which will enable us to have a functioning economy at unemployment rates lower than we had previously perceived in the last quarter century.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it true that the tech bubble in the late 1990s coincided with the unemployment rate going as low as 3.9 percent?
Mr. GREENSPAN. It did. But I wouldn't necessarily relate the two.
The CHAIRMAN. You would not relate the two?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, certainly the labor expansion and asset prices were a factor in economic activity. But if the structure of the labor market had been exceptionally rigid at the time, we would have found that prices and wages would have begun to move, as demand and supply pressures would have been out of balance. And so while, true, they are related in time, I am not sure I would relate them conceptually.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. My time has expired.
The gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, just to begin on that question. One of the reasons we were able, I think, to get to that quite healthy level, both socially and economically, was your willingness to challenge other people who believe that somehow automatically if we got that lower, the unemployment rate, it was going to be inflationary. And I continue to think that was one of the great services you performed by challenging what was then perceived wisdom in a lot of places, that we simply couldn't get belowremember, they had this concept of denial, when it seemed to me to be a lagging indicatorwhenever unemployment dropped, it dropped. But fortunately you were not fraught by that, and your willingness to accommodate that drop was very helpful.
One very specific question, because I was struck again by your comments on the negative consequences of the deficit, the inescapable negative consequences of the deficit: Have you ever discussed deficits with Vice President Cheney?
Mr. GREENSPAN. The reason I hesitate, essentially
Mr. FRANK. I know why you hesitate; you don't want to answer. That is stipulated.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, I just want to say that the reason for my hesitation is that I don't discuss
Mr. FRANK. Okay. Fortunately, Paul O'Neill does, so we will go elsewhere to get that information.
On the question of unemployment, we share your hope that we will be able to get it down, but clearly we haven't yet. And here is the problem. I read your December speech, and, yes, the flexibility helps in the macroeconomic sense. You acknowledge that the process of adjustment causes some pain to some people, that overall the country benefits, but it does mean people get thrown out of work.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What troubles me is, I think you are not sufficiently attendant to the importanceboth, I think, socially, but even economicallyof alleviating some of that distress.
In that December speech about flexibility, you did cite oneonly, really, one amelioration, and that was to retrain people through the community colleges. I appreciate that, but you know, the outsourcing now is taking place in many of the jobs that we used to retrain people for. I mean, if you go back to what we were retraining people for 10 years ago, some of those jobs are being outsourced. I don't think we can stop the economy, but it is going to stop if we don't do a better job of alleviating this.
As you know, the people who are losing their jobs may not be the ones who get the new jobs. There is a particular problem, and that is that many of the jobs being lost carried with them some reasonable degree of health benefits. And one of the terrible social problems in this countryand again, all these social problems have an economic kick backthe percentage of full-time employed people who get health benefits through their employment is dropping, and new jobs do not have the health benefits, partly because of different structures, partly because of the weakness of labor unions which has been a conscious policy as well as an economic factor, probably because when people start from scratch they figure they don't have to do it.
Whatand I have to say also, Mr. Chairman, I think you exacerbate it one other way. Your comments on the deficit and its dangers are very strong. Not here, but elsewhere you have advocated that the great bulk of deficit reduction comes through spending reductions, not through any reincreasing in tax rates at any level. And we are not now talking obviously about tax reduction that was short-term stimulative; we are talking about longer questions in the economy.
I have to tell you that if we were to follow the prescription that I think you have made, that allalmost all of the adjustmentfairly substantial adjustment to get rid of these huge deficits, if it all comes on the spending side, our ability to ameliorate the social distress, that you acknowledge is the inevitable consequence of economic adjustment, will dwindle. And if that happens, you are going to continue to see resistance.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, you do tell people in your speeches, don't be protectionists. But as I have told you before, preaching Schumpeter. His theory of creative destruction buys you less in terms of a tolerance on the part of the people who are the short-term victims than you might ask, and I would really urge youand I will hope you have something to say about it nowto join us in trying to do a better job.
I don't think we can, as a country, stop transitions, but if we don't do a better job of managing the social costs of these transitions to real people in large numbers, they are going to slow down the transitions and, in some cases, stop them. And we can't do that if we adjust all of this deficit by spending reductions and none of it by looking at the revenue side.
Mr. GREENSPAN. What I said, Congressman, and I will say again is that the longer-term problem is on the expenditure side, and that is a fact; and in a sense that you can by looking at the data, that we have very considerable difficulty in meeting the long-term projections for the commitments we have made without a significant increase in tax rates.
Mr. FRANK. Is it a fact that we have to reduce, abolish the estate tax altogether? That is not a fact; that is a value judgment.
Mr. GREENSPAN. No. I am referring to the numbers. If you look at the numbers, what the numbers tell youand this is CBO, OMB, and in fact virtually every major private analyst who looks at itwe have a very serious problem in the future.
The point that I think we have to recognize is the fact that we don't know the extent to which tax increases curtail economic activity and, therefore, the revenue base. We do know that it is a risk, and therefore, in my judgment, we ought to be looking at getting as much as we can in the longer run in the way of expenditure restraint before we look at the issue of filling the gap on the tax side in order to get a viable fiscal policy.
I am talking about process.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Royce.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Greenspan, welcome. One of the questions I wanted to ask you was about the condition today where the Asian central banks, particularly China and Japan, are buying U.S. Treasuries in record numbers, and they are doing that to keep their currency from rising against the dollar. And my question is, if the dollar reaches some equilibrium and the Asian central banks stop this intervention, could their absence from the Treasury market cause interest rates to rise unexpectedly as a result of that? And is the Fed concerned about that possibility?
Mr. GREENSPAN. It is generally well-known in the marketplace that the maturity of those instruments which have been accumulated are relatively short-term, as indeed our overall outstanding debt is.
As a consequence, to take your question just even a step further and say what would happen if the holders of U.S. Treasury instruments began to sell them, would that put particular disruption on the price structure in the markets that occur here? And the answer is, it is unlikely. And the reason it is unlikely is, first, that even though there are very significant holdings of U.S. Treasury instruments in official foreign accounts, they are still a relatively small proportion of the aggregate competing securities, including private securities, which these markets integrate with.
It is also important that because the maturities are short, when you sell them, you don't significantly alter the price because, obviously, the price of a very short-term instrument can't fluctuate much so long as the maturity at par is a very short distance away.
So I think that the concerns that have been expressed about serious problems in our financial markets as a consequence of an ending of intervention of that sort are misplaced. I don't deny that there will be adjustments; there always are when any large block of securities moves back and forth. But it is not something which I would consider to be of major import in the financial markets.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROYCE. I appreciate that answer.
Another question I was going to pose to you is, you said this morning that a strengthening in capital spending over this last year contributed to the acceleration of real output. If the Congress were to suddenly repeal the dividend tax cut that we enacted, would not that have a negative effect on equity prices, especially on those stocks that pay a dividend? And as a result, could business investments suffer because of the resulting increase in the cost of capital to the private sector?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, you may remember a year ago there was considerable discussion about the interrelationship between cutting or removing a significant part of the double taxation of dividends and yields and, hence, equity prices. I don't think the evidence in retrospect is all that sharp.
I do believe that when you reduce the tax on dividends, over the long run you invariably get higher levels of stock prices. But I don't think that the evidence is sufficiently sharp at this stage to suggest that it has been a major issue. But certainly if indeed stock prices were to fall, if history is any guide, they do have an impact on capital investment largely because, one, the direct increase in the equity cost of capital, and secondly, because of the capital values in a system impacting on what capital investment is.
Obviously, if you have, say, a residential building or, I should say, an apartment building or an office building which has a market value which is significantly greater than the cost that would be required to build it, you will be very much inclined to build apartment buildings or office building. If, however, the value in the market goes down, you will be less so inclined.
Mr. ROYCE. Thank you.
My last question was to the issue that isas far as I remember, as this process of forecasting interest rates has gone on, it has been focused on unemployment, productivity, the Consumer Price Index; and the last element of that that is always talked about is consumer confidence.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to know how asset prices play into the monetary policy calculations. I would like to know how much emphasis these days does the Fed play on asset price levels of things like equities and credit spreads, home prices, commodities, the yield curve. When you are considering adjustments to policy, is that part of the prescription?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congressman, remember that our central focus is on the overall economy. I mean, our mandate is to create maximum sustainable growth in the context of price stability. And it is clear, all of the variables you just outlined have significant impacts on the pattern of both product prices and on economic output and employment. And to that extent, obviously, we watch them, we look at them, we evaluate them, and we try to integrate their effects into an overall view of the way the economy is functioning.
But as far as policy is concerned, our ultimate objective is on how the economy is functioning overall. And we do not endeavor in any way to apply monetary policy towards altering any of the individual variables that you outlined.
Mr. ROYCE. I see. Thank you, Chairman Greenspan.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Kanjorski.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Greenspan, listening to the beginning of your presentation, I heard a great deal of optimism. And then the rest of your speech, as indicated, a great deal of mines that exist that we could step on in a very short period of time could be very disruptive of the economy.
But I think, going back to something that Mr. Frank first mentioned and you just referred to in your response to the last question, your position is to study and support a strong economy; and that is very good in practice, but it is what part of the American population experiences that very strong economy? And where I would like to direct our attention today is to several questions.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The President on three prior occasions has asked the Congress to adopt a policy of tax reduction, which it followed; and in every one of those presentations the President indicated to the American people and their representatives in Congress that it would cause substantial job increase. In one instance, they indicated the creation of 1,200,000 new jobs.
This creation of jobs has not occurred to date. And to date, we have 42 consecutive months of loss of manufacturing jobs in the country. So I guess my first question to you, can you or do you support the projection presently made by this President that, with making permanent the tax cuts that were previously enacted, they will create over the next year 2.6 million jobs; or is that a wish and a hope that cannot be realized?
And two, if we are going to have a good economy, but it is unequal as its benefits are distributed around this country, what are we to say to the citizens of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, that have had substantial loss of manufacturing jobs? And from my observation, I see nothing on the horizon to see a replacement of those jobs or a growth in the manufacturing field.
Could you try and respond to that?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Certainly.
The major problem in forecasting jobs is essentially forecasting what productivity growth will be. I believe why the administration's forecast in the past fell short, as indeed most private economists' forecasts fell short, is that none of us perceived how large the increase in output per hour or productivity was going to be; and we still, in retrospect, do not fully understand why the extent of the efficiencies that have occurred has been as large as it has.
My own expectation is that the rate of productivity advance, which has been 5 percent-plus over the recent past, is going to slow down significantly. And it is just a matter of arithmetic that if overall growth in demand stays essentially where it is, you will begin to create significant job growth.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is the administration's forecast, the current one, feasible? If productivity growth slows down to a more historic level, it is probably feasible. But we have not as yet seen any evidence that that is indeed the case. In other words, we are still seeing very little evidence of new job hiring.
Mr. KANJORSKI. Well, then let me interrupt a second. I mean, it is a simple question, it seems to me.
Over the next 12 months, do you see a significant change from productivity that is going to fall to historic levels and be an increase in jobs? Or is that fantasyland?
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, I don't think it is fantasyland. I think it is probably the most likely projection. Indeed, I think thatas I indicated in my prepared remarksthat goodly parts of the extraordinary rise in productivity are looked at in an obverse sense.
The failure of net job creation to occur with the growth and output is largely a consequence of a substantial amount of inefficiencies that invariably build up during a boom period, which occurred in the previous 1995 to 2000 period. And as a consequence of that, the possibilities for significant rates of return in either capital investment or just management shuffling has induced a very major improvement in the way business is done.
My impression is, however, that that backlog of unexploited inefficiencies is probably running out. And if so, we will fall back to a more normal level of productivity growth. And if that happens, then a number not terribly different from what the administration is forecasting is a likely one.
It, however, depends on the productivity forecast. And I must say to you that our ability to forecast that has not been sterling.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Baker.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BAKER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Chairman Greenspan. I wish to turn to a subject you and I have had previous discussions about and, first, simply to make a request. Given the inadequacy of current financial reporting, apparently, at least at one of the GSEs, and the pending restatement issues, I have concerns that our ability to accurately assess financial condition may be significantly impaired.
To that end, one indicator that your agency is the repository of the information could be quite useful and helpful to those on the committee with interest in this matter, would be a report by you, if appropriate, on the failure of either enterprise to meet the traditional 4 o'clock settlement obligations in their P&E accountsthe amounts, the durationsand perhaps contrast that with a similar frequency of financial institutions of similar financial scale to give us some idea about whether these are aberrant behaviors or whether it is consistent with a broader financial market.
And I don't expect a comment today, I just wanted to get a request on the record.
Secondly, time permitting, for you to express your opinion with regard to a regulator having the authority to adjust minimum capital unilaterally, based on concerns of safety and soundness, and whether the authority to adjust minimum capital is a significant regulatory tool which other financial regulators utilize.
But most importantly, for you to respond to statements made by others pursuant to the release of a report in December by the Fed which examined the value of the implied subsidy, the potential cost to taxpayers of the GSEs in utilization of that subsidy, the response of which by one GSE to that report was, ''It is the work of only one uninformed employee and does not represent the views of anyone else.''
Mr. BAKER. I wanted to give you the opportunity to express either your personal or board opinion concerning the efficacy of that report. And do you believe that based on the findings of that report, as I have read it, that the employed subsidy does not provide significant benefits to the mortgage market while costing taxpayers billions?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congressman, with respect to your second question, I would broaden it and say that any regulator, either a banking or a financial institution, cannot function appropriately without the capability of adjusting the capital of those entities which are supervised. If you have a fixed amount of capital with which to deal, it is very readily possible that you will run into a regulatory problem which is not solvable, so I think that without the ability of a regulator to have essentially full capabilities, or a very wide range of capabilities, to adjust capital of the entities which are being regulated, I would say that that regulation is half functioning. It is basically tying one or one and a half hands behind your back. And I would strongly recommend to the Congress that whatever regulator structure is constructed, that that regulator have control of the capability of capital because without it, regulation, in my judgment, will be deficient.
With respect to the second question, I read the report of Wayne Passmore. I read it twice. I think it is an exceptionally good analytical report. I haven't checked the econometric details of his data input or his calculation of T values or the like, but the structure and the way he came at the particular analysis, I thought, was first rate. And if others think it can be improved upon, and indeed we are asking for inputs to improve upon it, we would like to hear any criticisms, any data which contradicted it, or in fact anything which would improve the evaluation. We have no vested interest in the final conclusion of the report. We do have a vested interest that it be accurate.
Mr. BAKER. Mr. Chairman, I would offer that in the event that you choose to do so, I am very anxious to hear the criticism validity, and should it be advisable at some future time to have a little get-together and talk about it, I would be more than willing to facilitate such a meeting. And I thank you for your courtesy.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentlelady from California, Ms Waters.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Greenspan, we welcome you. We always are delighted to have you here and I bring you greetings from my district. My constituents still have fond memories of your visit there and we welcome you back. But they told me to ask you
Mr. GREENSPAN. I remember it fondly as well, I must say to you.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you. But they did tell me to talk with you about jobs today. You are going to hear, particularly on this side of the aisle, many questions about jobs, job creation and outsourcing. As we welcome you here, we seek your wise counsel and advice about how we as public policymakers can reconcile the dilemma that you describe in your statement as the economy having made impressive gains in output and real incomes and only limited progress in creating jobs.
Mr. Chairman, as you know, having a job is like motherhood and apple pie in America. And when we look at what is happening to jobs, I see in my own State job loss numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that show that my State of California has lost 284,900 nonfarm payroll jobs since January 2001, including 8,400 such jobs in December. As of December 2003, there were 1,125,890 persons in California who were unemployed, 329,875 more than in January 2001. There are a lot of other numbers that I could give you, but I want you to know as we look at this national job picture, the job picture is even worse for minorities. The national African American unemployment rate is 10.5 percent and the Hispanic employment rate is now 7.3 percent.
Now, to add insult to injury, Mr. Chairman, we have this outsourcing. We started to talk about this 15, almost 20 years ago. When I was in the State legislature one of my biggest pieces of legislation had to do with plant closure, and we warned that the loss of manufacturing jobs and the exportation of jobs to third world countries was going to create this kind of job picture. And we were told by economists, don't worry, there will be different kinds of jobs. And yet that has not happened.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, what advice do you give us? Do you believe that this administration can make the Bush tax cuts permanent, continue to spend and create this huge deficit, not unveil to the American public what the war in Iraq and Iran is costing usit wasn't shown in the budgetand somehow create jobs and turn this picture around? What is your advice? And do you believe that when we look at the President's expenditures and this huge deficit that we can have new spending such as the space program that he described in the budget, the creating of the space station on the moon and going to Mars? And Mr. Chairman, what is this business about training for what jobs in the community colleges? And shouldn't we be attaching to the tax cuts and evaluating whether or not that money is seeing its way back into the economy and doing job creation? How can we solve this dilemma? What advice would you give this administration and us?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, first of all, the major problem with jobs is not economic growth. It is not demand. It is not the structure of the elements which are involved in taxes or anything which impacts on the gross domestic product. If that were the case, and we were in a period of historically low productivity growth, our job creation numbers would be huge at this point. So what is involved here is this very difficult problem that we have got. On the one hand we obviously look with great favor on the efficiencies that are occurring because at the end of the day that will elevate standards of living of the American people. On the other hand, it is very clearly creating a significant shortfall in new hires. Now, unless I am mistaken, my view is that this pattern is about to change. I don't know when it is going to change. I just find it highly difficult to imagine that we can continue to advance efficiencies as quickly as we are doing. But I will say this, that it is only a slowdown in productivity or an incredible and unexpected rise in economic growth from an already high level that will create jobs. And I don't think that the question really at this point is involved in the budget or fiscal policy, although, for reasons I try to outline in my prepared remarks, it is a very critical issue down the road, so to speak.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired. Gentlelady from New York, Ms. Kelly.
Mrs. KELLY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Your office has worked with mywith the oversight subcommittee on issues that are related to critical infrastructure and the implementation of the anti-money laundering legislation. This committee drafted title III of the USA PATRIOT Act. Part of what that did was aim at monitoring the flow of illicit money. Since the gentlelady raised the issue of what is going on with regard to that aspect of things, I would like to get some information from you. These provisions expire in thatin the PATRIOT Act in 2005. I would like to know what your thoughts are on the use of title III, including the requirement that foreign countries and financial institutions share cross-border information in order to do business with the United States.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Congresswoman, I am aware of what obviously we are doing and I am obviously aware of what others are doing. But I am unclear in my own mind of where it is classified and where it is not classified. So I am in a difficulty answering your question. What I may like to do, if you don't mind, is answer you in written form with respect to that issue and try to give it some context. I will try to do that as soon as I can if I may.
Mrs. KELLY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your sensitivity and I am certainly delighted. Any venue at all that we could have a dialogue about that I would appreciate. One of the things, also, there have been some concerns raised about the potential impact about a patchwork of securities regulation which includes efforts by the Federal Government and the State governments in a way to set and regulate prices in the market. Some of the people have said that the more cops on the beat the better. But then I am wondering if it isn't appropriate to say that the more cops that are on the beat working in coordination with each other is better.
Do you think that investors and the American people benefit from coordination between the State and Federal regulators to maximize the enforcement and ensure the highest level of expertise with regards to the markets? Also, throughjust a second question there. Maximizing returns that go directly back to the investors is something we have talked about. I want to know if your opinion has changed on that also. So I have asked you basically two questions.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. Are you referring mainly to mutual funds when you are posing your question?
Mrs. KELLY. Well, let's just frame itit was more a general question. But if you can frame it within mutual funds it is fine with me.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, the thing we have to be aware of is that a market based capitalist system cannot function if there is a great deal of criminality involved or violence. When we talk about a rule of law, one of the rules is that thou shalt not steal. And some of what has been involved in with respect to the mutual fund industry, if the charges turn out in fact to be true, which some of them presumably are, is basically one group of people stealing from another. That is called a felony. And in my judgment, we have to be very assiduous in maintaining to eliminate that from the system because otherwise it will be difficult to get our system to function.
Having said that, it is also important to recognize that it is very easy in the process of enforcing the law against criminality to inadvertently involve ourselves in functions which are not criminal and which restrict market competition and, in so doing, will undermine the efficacy of the institutions that we are concerned about, institutions which are very important to the functioning of the American financial system. And in my judgment, we have to be aware of how important these institutions are, not only to individual investors, which they are, but also to the liquidity and the functioning of the aggregate financial system and their importance in enabling the type of flexibility which I have said so much about recently as being one of the critical factors in why, despite all of the shocks that we have seen to this economy starting from the stock market crash, all the way to 9/11 and the Afghan and Iraqi wars, we have had very little in the way of economic contraction, and I attribute that in large measure to the flexibility that has emerged in our financial system, amongst other places. And I would be very concerned were we in our endeavor to root out very properly criminality from our institutions know where the boundary line was.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired. The gentleman from Vermont.
Mr. SANDERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Greenspan, nice to see you again. I always enjoy your presentations, as you know, and I never cease to be astounded about how your observations about our economy are so far removed from the reality that I see every day in my State, middle class people and what I see all over the country. It is like we live in two different worlds. You talk about optimism. I see in my State and around this country that the middle class is shrinking, that ordinary people are working longer hours for lower wages. I see that since 2001, three million more Americans have become poor. I see more and more Americans without any health insurance. I see retirees now losing the benefits that corporate America promised to them. I see older workers worried about the pensions that they were promised but which they may never get. And that is what I see. That is the bad news.
But the good news, which I haven't talked about enough, is that many of your friends, the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well. While over the last 27 years the real income of the bottom 90 percent of American taxpayers actually fell by 7 percent, the income of the top 1 percent rose by 148 percent and the income of the richest one-hundredth of 1 percent, the really good friends of yours, they rose by 599 percent. So maybe that is the difference in perception.
Some of us go out and we talk to middle class people and working people. Now, Mr. Greenspan, over the last 3 years the U.S. has lost almost three million good paying manufacturing jobs, representing 16 percent of our total factory work force. Manufacturing employment has gone down 43 consecutive months, which hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Due to our disastrous trade policies, which you advocate for very, very strongly, American companies have shipped millions of decent paying jobs overseas to countries like China, where if workers try to form a union they get fired. If they try to protect the environment they may go to jail. People like the CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt, and many others stand up proudly to advocate how they are going to shut down plants in America and move to China. And while decent paying manufacturing jobs in this country decline, the largest employer in the United States is now Wal-Mart, who pays peoplewhich pays people poverty wages, fights unions ruthlessly and provides miserable benefits.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A new study came out, as you may be aware of, that indicated that the new jobs being created in this country, primarily service jobs, Wal-Mart type jobs, pay 21 percent less than the old jobs that we are losing. Not only are we losing manufacturing jobs, we are now losing white collar information technology jobs because they are going to India.
Now, last year what I thought was an incredible statement you stated, and let me quote it. Quote, is it important for an economy to have manufacturing? There is a big dispute on this issue. If there is no concern about access to foreign producers of manufactured goods, then I think you can argue it does not really matter whether or not you produce them or not. End of quote. Mr. Alan Greenspan. In other words, according to you, it doesn't matter whether we get our goods purchased in China, from people making 20 cents an hour, or they are produced in the United States from people making $20,000$20 an hour.
Now interestingly, and this is my question, the Bush administration apparently agrees with you. According to the Seattle Times, the Bush administration believes, and I quote, the movement of American factory jobs and white collar work to other countries is part of a positive transformation that will enrich the U.S. economy.
So my question is, do you agree with the Bush administration that it doesn't matter if we lose good paying manufacturing and information technology jobs and they are replaced by low wage Wal-Mart jobs?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, let me actually agree with some of your figures, but give you a different perspective on what creates them. First of all, if all of the jobs being lost in the United States over the years and this goes back to the problems we used to have where we were losing jobs to low wage Japan, then we were losing jobs to low wage Mexico, then to low wage China, now the Mexicans are complaining that they are losing jobs to low wage China. Through all of this, the real wage of the average American has been rising and rising at a reasonably strong clip. The question that you I think properly raise is the income distribution question because it is the case that people at the lower end of the skills spectrum have had very considerable difficulty in raising their real wages where those at the upper end have shown significant so-called skill premiums. And what this turns out to be regrettably is a problem of a mismatch between a growing more sophisticated conceptual capital stock, meaning the means by which we produce goods and services in this country is ever increasingly more ideas and skills and less physical input and manual labor. That has been the long
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SANDERS. I don't mean to interrupt you.
The CHAIRMAN. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. SANDERS. You didn't answer my question.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from the first State, Governor Castle.
Mr. SANDERS. Can he answer the questions?
Mr. GREENSPAN. I can't answer the question without answering the question and I am trying do that.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentleman from Delaware.
Mr. CASTLE. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GREENSPAN. The point that I am trying to suggest to you, Congressman, is that the gross domestic product in this country is becoming increasingly more conceptual as the years go on over the generations and that it is important for our work force of necessity to match the skills that are required to produce the goods and services we do. Regrettably, we need to do more as far as education is concerned to move our skills level in line with, the growth in the conceptual underlying technology of what it is we produce. We have not been ableplease.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has once again expired. The gentleman from Delaware.
Mr. GREENSPAN. May I just make one final sentence, please?
The CHAIRMAN. Go ahead.
Mr. GREENSPAN. The point at issue here is that we are ending up with an inadequate ability to move skills up sufficiently quickly. And this, as you point out, has created a problem of excess supply versus demand amongst our lowest skills and the reverse in the top. And that is something we have to address. And I happen to agree with Congressman Frank, that it is very important in this country not only to have an equitable society, but to have it perceived as being equitable because no democratic system can function unless the people believe it is equitable. And I think that it is crucially important for us to reduce the income inequality in this country and I think the way that one has to do that is through education. And I must say to you the community colleges in this country have been in the forefront of a major change in the quality of what we are doing with respect to reestablishing skills.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I agree with your numbers. I just disagree with the conclusion you have come to.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from the first State.
Mr. CASTLE. I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to sort of build on what you were just talking about, Mr. Chairman. And you talked about income inequality and you brought in education. And I serve as the head of an education subcommittee and I have been involved with No Child Left Behind and I also serve on the Higher Education Subcommittee as well. And I would like your views on what role that you see for our country's educational system and preparing and supplying properly trained workers for our economic society and our society at large. And like everybody else I am concerned about the job drain, et cetera. And I happen to believe that some of this is educationally related to a great degree. You mentioned junior colleges, but there is also the whole function of the quality I think that we need in K through 12th grade as well as opportunities to go to all colleges, et cetera, in this country. And I think it is a more significant part of our economic broad picture than perhaps meets the eye and I would be interested in your views on that, sir.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congressman, I find discouraging the fact that the recent evaluations of the ranking of our students internationally in math and science, find the American students sort of average, maybe slightly better than average in the fourth grade and by the time they get to the eighth and the 12th grade we have deteriorated significantly. And what this suggests to me is that we are falling short in getting an adequate number of people through our elementary and secondary schools into colleges, and thereby increasing the supply of skilled workers and effectively bringing down the so-called skill premium, which would be a major factor in reducing income inequality in this country. Not only is the issue one of moving students much more rapidly from fourth grade through high school and into colleges, and its impact obviously on higher skills, but in doing that, you also reduce the supply in a number of the lower skills which will raise their wages and have an effect of rebalancing the structure of wage changes in the United States, so that the skill differentials are significantly different from where they are at this particular stage. And that, to me, says that we have to find ways to create a curriculum which enables us to compete with a significant part of the rest of the world, and a lot of the rest of the world to which I am referring to is the so-called developing world. And I don't know enough about the specifics of curricula and how one would improve that, but I do know what the effect is. And I do know that it is obviously possible, because they are doing it everywhere else in the world and we are not. And if we want to maintain an economy and a society which has been at the cutting edge of technology, with the highest real incomes of any major country, we have to enhance the capability and the skills of people coming out of our schools. You cannot have a highly complex capital structure without skilled people to essentially staff it. I think immigration is obviously one thing that is helping in part. It is filling in a lot of the slots where skills are required. But we shouldn't be needing to do that. We should be doing it with our own students and enhancing their capabilities in a manner which would enable our increasingly complex capital stock to function and maintain these very long term improvements in productivity, which even though I expect them to slow down from the recent pace, nonetheless, even at half of where they have recently been, it would be a major advance over what we experienced in the period of say the 1970s and the 1980s.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CASTLE. Well, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, and my time is going to expire here and I think it is very important that the whole country understands that tie between education, our economy and the significance of it individually and individuals and families as well as the overall economy. And while I won't have time to ask the question, I would just like to credit your comments in your statement on the deficit. There is a lot of wisdom there in terms of what we have to do. I am one of those who believes that we have to put everything on the table all the way from looking at the tax cuts to homeland security and defense and as well as other discretionary mandatory spending, and make some hard and fast decisions. And I think you have underlined that very well in your statement and I hope that all of us can learn from it as well. And I did note, by the way, that the stock market is up a little bit which always makes me feel good when you are testifying, and I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentlelady from New York.
Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Dr. Greenspan, we all have a great deal of respect for your knowledge of the economy, and that is why I have to ask why is the economy so bad for so many of my constituents? Even though the economic indicators look good, the GDP growth is up, there has been improvement in many areas, but still there are no jobs. And I represent a highly educated and skilled constituency. And still, highly educated, skilled people cannot find jobs. And this is very, very troubling. I know that you have lowered interest rates 13 times since President Bush was elected and interest rates are at a historic low. But some observers believe that you are keeping a low Federal fund rate because of the stagnant job situation. The economy needs to create 125,000 to 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with the growing labor force, and last month we created only 112,000 jobs. So my question is, how heavily is the job situation and job stagnation affecting the Federal Reserve interest rate policy? I know that there are many different variables. I am not talking about the other variables. But what we are seeing is all the other variables are going up, yet the jobs are continuing to fall basically. We can't even get up to where we began when President Bush took office. So my question is, is it the job stagnation that is keeping this historic low rate?
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. No. It is basically our overall view of what the balance of forces is in the economy, and what we have tried to indicate is that given our evaluation of what the economic outlook is, what we view as the outlook for inflation, for growth, for productivity and jobs, all in combination, has placed us at a point where we believe the most appropriate rate is 1 percent for the Federal funds rate. And I don't want to get involved into any more of the particular details, but I would scarcely say, as I indicated to one of your colleagues a moment ago, that any particular variable in our economy is driving monetary policy. Obviously, for reasons I mentioned before with respect to the question of concerns about people who are not only having difficulty finding jobs because the hiring rate is so low, but there is also the problem that no one has mentioned which is a difficult issue, that when people get laid off and they do seek jobs, on average, for a while at least, their income rate goes down. And that is a factor which has been clearly over the years a significant issue, suppressing the overall growth in real incomes in the society. So what we have got is a highly mobile population, and it is one in which the job turnover numbers are awesome. We, in fact, hire a million people a week in this country, and more or less a million people lose jobs or quit jobs during the week. So there is a huge churning, but that means there is a very substantial number of people who are on the wrong side of that churning, for example, I mean currently two million have been looking for jobs for over a year and can't find them. So I mean it may be a relatively small part of the population, but it is still millions, and we are acutely aware of what these elements do to a society. So we may be Governors of the Federal Reserve but we are also citizens of this country.
Mrs. MALONEY. So given what you have said today in your testimony, and given the fact that you have accommodated this with a very low Federal funds rate, a historically low one, and is it safe to say that you disagree with the report that came out yesterday from the Bush administration's Economic Policy Advisers that next year we will create 2.6 million jobs? That is what this report says. That is what the report came out.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Greenspan. I haven't read the specific
Mrs. MALONEY. Well, it says we are going to create 2.6 million jobs.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I haven't read the specific details of their forecast. My impression is that they have a significant decline in the rate of productivity advance from where it has been recently, and if you get
Mrs. MALONEY. Do you agree or disagree?
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I haven't read it. I said to one of your colleagues earlier it is a credible forecast if the rate of productivity slows down to a more historical average.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired. The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Paul.
Mr. PAUL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Chairman Greenspan. I certainly was pleased that you brought up the subject of deficits, because deficits obviously do cause a problem and you mention that deficits may eventually cause interest rates to go up. But I also would like to suggest that deficits alone are not the problem, because whether you borrow the money or tax the money out of the economy, deficits still put pressure on the capital market. So deficits alone are not the problem. It is big government. It is big spending and the amount we spend here that really, really counts. But you said the deficits couldfuture expectations of deficits could raise interest rates and I certainly would agree with that. But we also must remember that future expectations of the inflation rate and the future expectations of the value of the dollar also can raise interest rates. And those caused by monetary policy. And therefore, the pressure or the emphasis or the blame for high interest rates that will come can't be put on the deficit alone. It has to be put on those who manage monetary policy.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also, you warned on page seven that the printing presses won't run indefinitely. You use the word ''indefinitely.'' and that is good because if they do run this fast indefinitely, we all know what will and can happen. So that is good that eventually you will turn the printing presses off. But for now you said you can be patient, and that means we will just let the money flow and see what happens, which I think is a risky proposition.
But you mentioned the condition of protectionism. You are worried about protectionism, which I think is characteristic in all societies that destroy their currency, and especially when you have a fluctuating fiat currency. People yield to the temptations of protectionism. But once again, there are different ways of bringing about protectionism. There are the tariffs. But there is also the competitive devaluations and the exchange rate of the dollar, which is a reflex of monetary policy.
But my question is related a little bit to the wording of indefinitely and being patient because they are arbitrary. They are subjective. And in January your report, FOMC report omitted two words, two words that were subjective, and that was ''considerable period.'' and I find very interesting, and also very alarming, the amount of clout, the amount of power that we as a nation and we as a committee have allowed to get into the hands of one or two individuals or a committee. From the time the market was up to the release of that report the stock market lost $250 billion as a reflection of the concern about the dropping of two words. Frederick Hayek was fond of saying that the managed economy was in danger because it was based on a pretense of knowledge, that certain things the economic planners don't know and, for instance, he would agree with me that we don't know, you don't know, the Congress doesn't know what the overnight rates ought to be, yet we reject the marketplace. But it is part of the system. And I understand that. But doesn't it ever occur to you that maybe there is too much power in the hands of those who control monetary policy, the power to create the financial bubbles, the power to maybe bring the bubble about, the power to change the value of the stock market within minutes? That to me is just an ominous power and challenges the whole concept of freedom and liberty and sound money.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, as I have said to you before, the problem you are alluding to is the conversion of a commodity standard to fiat money. We have statutorily gone onto a fiat money standard, and as a consequence of that it is inevitable that the authority, which is the producer of the money supply, will have inordinate power. And that is one of the reasons why I have indicated because of that, and because of the fact that we are unelected officials, it is mandatory that we be as transparent as we conceivably can, and remember that we are accountable to the electorate and to the Congress. And the power that we have is all granted by you. We don't have any capability whatsoever to do anything without the agreement or even the acquiescence of the Congress of the United States. We recognize that and one of the reasons I am here today is to endeavor to convey why we are doing what we are doing. And I will continue to do that, and I am sure that all of my colleagues are fully aware of the responsibility that the Congress has given us, and I trust that we adhere to the principles of the Constitution of the United States more so than one would ordinarily do.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. PAUL. And I agree with you that the responsibility is here in Congress.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from North Carolina.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chairman Greenspan, welcome once again. And I always try to take your macro approach which you have responsibility for and put it in my own context because while economics may be macro, politics is local, which is a little bit micro. And so I have been listening intently to what you have to say and trying to put it in the context of the North Carolina situation, and I want to read a little excerpt and then ask you a question or two. This excerpt from a report says in nine States that cover most regions of the country, and North Carolina is one of those States, the number of unemployed workers projected to exhaust their regular benefits between January and June 2004, without receiving any further assistance, is larger than the number for any previous January to June period on record. And then it says the most dramatic story is in North Carolina. The 61,600 unemployed workers who are expected to exhaust their regular benefits without being able to receive further aid is 50 percent higher than the next highest level on record.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I am trying to apply what you have said to North Carolina, and I know you have got the whole 50 States to apply it to. But if I do so, a couple of things jump out at me. Number one, North Carolina is reputed to have among the best community college systems in the country. Number two, I am trying to figure out exactly how productivity, which is what you say is sustaining the failure to hire people, how that kind of plays out in North Carolina with all of the plant closings that we have had, because a closed plant can't either be productive or unproductive. I mean there is not going to be any jobs there.
So I guess my question is, number one, would extending unemployment benefits be stimulative to the economy, first of all? And number two, can you put in context the micromacro analysis you have done and help me feel better about what is going on in North Carolina on the micro or local political level?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, I wouldn't put the issue of extending unemployment benefits in North Carolina or anywhere else as an issue related to trying to stimulate the economy. The economy has got plenty of stimulus. If you are going to move on extending unemployment benefits, it should not be for that reason. It should be for the reason of trying to help people, 61,000, who presumably need it, although I suggest to you that unless I am mistaken, for the economy as a whole we are going to find that those exhaustees, so to speak, coming off 26 weeks of unemployment insurance will be heading down in numbers really quite significantly. But I think the important question is what does one do in a world in which a number of the industries, which are running into trouble in this highly dynamic economy with major changes in technology, what does that type of economy do? I remember working with a number of the textile plants in North Carolina. I did a lot of work for Burlington and a number of other operations in the area, and 20, 30 years ago, these were really extraordinarily first class operations. And over the years, as has happened in so many industries, competition created very difficult conditions for them, and they gradually shrunk in size and many of them have gone out of business, as you know better than I.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What I think is crucially important to do under those conditions is to find ways in which to recognize that the level of real income of a geographical area depends to a very substantial extent on the degree of skill of the population, not the particular jobs that they happen to be in. Over the years people have held very different jobs through North Carolina, and real income has risen materially. What is crucial is to find a way to be sure that new jobs, new ways of doing things can be done because as occurred in many areas of our country, we have seen big shifts, for example, from steel. Manufacture to health care in geographical regions in which, as steel income went down, real incomes went up because of very major facilities coming on in the health care industry. And there are innumerable examples like that. But it happens over time and while it is happening, it is very distressful to people. The trouble is that you cannot readily stop progress. You can try, but invariably you will fail. And the reason why I say it is very important for us to make certain that our school systems and, as you pointed out, the excellent community colleges in North Carolina, it is important to find new ways in which the inherent skills of a population can be converted into high real incomes, wholly irrespective of what particular jobs or industries they are in.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. GREENSPAN. It is not an easy issue, but I am not sure I know of a real alternative to that.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Manzullo.
Mr. MANZULLO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, on Monday Dr. Gregory Mankiw, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers said shipping jobs to low cost countries is, quote, the latest manifestation of the gains from trade that economists have talked about, end of quote, for centuries. And he also stated in the report that he issued that Chinese exports to the United States, quote, are not a primary factor in the displacement of the American manufacturing workers, end of quote. As a Member of Congress whose unemployment in the largest city, Rockford, Illinois, which led the nation in unemployment at 25 percent in 1981 and whose unemployment now is still over 11 percent, not counting the four factories that have decided to close and whose numbers are not counted in the unemployment, two questions. First of all, do you agree with the statement and, second of all, his further statement was that new jobs will be created, and I would like to know, my constituents would like to know, what are the new jobs? When are they going to be created? What sectors are they involved in?
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, first let me say first that I haven't read the article to which you are alluding at this moment nor have I seen other than the quotes in the press this morning concerning what Dr. Mankiw has said. Let me just say, first, that he is a first rate economist and I must say he is held in the highest esteem amongst his colleagues. I can't comment on specifically what he said with respect to outsourcing because I haven't read it. But with respect to China, I have said very much the same thing and for a very important reason. It has often been argued that the exchange rate in China is too low and that if it were raised it would create jobs in the United States. The implication there is that the other sources of low labor input, low labor cost jobs would not displace China as indeed China displaced a number of East Asian jobs. I think that there are very serious job problems and there are very serious problems specifically in your area of the United States and I think we are all acutely aware of the difficulties involved there. I would not, however, try to figure out a policy which would somehow restrict the exports from China.
Mr. MANZULLO. I am not talking about a policy. I am talking about the statement.
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, but his statement, as you have alluded to, is that China is not the problem of loss of jobs in the United States.
Mr. MANZULLO. I can give you the names of Gear Manufacturing, Barry Manufacturing, I can give you lists and lists and lists of American manufacturers, including thousands of unemployed people in my district who have lost their jobs specifically, specifically because those products are now being made in China.
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, no. I don't disagree that this is indeed happening. I am just merely saying that if China stopped exporting to the United States that others would take up the slack and I think in that regard you would find that it is not a Chinese issue. It is a basic issue of competition internationally.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MANZULLO. The January 30th edition of Wall Street Journal had an article where China is now outsourcing to North Korea and Vietnam because $150 a month is too much to pay. But the reason I asked the question is I think it is extremely upsetting to my constituents and several Members of Congress when the President comes out with a tremendous package on manufacturing and then right behind his back, almost 180 degrees, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers says there is no problem with stuff coming in from China. That is not the case. We have got a serious problem going on, and I think we need to address that. But first, the chief, Council of Economic Advisers has to recognize that there is a problem.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Is there a question in that last
Mr. MANZULLO. No, it was just a nice statement. But thank you for your input. I appreciate it.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman yields back? The gentleman from the evergreen State.
Mr. INSLEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Doctor, we are glad you are here because we need your help restoring some measure of fiscal sanity to the United States Government. With the deficits that we are now running over 500 billion, you know, I had one constituent the other day that says, you know what you guys look like, you make Enron look like Mother Theresa ran the shop. And the unfortunate situation is that with this exploding deficit, we still have those here in this administration and in Congress who want to continue on this glidepath of continuing this course of adding debt to future generations and continuing to ignore the known fact that the baby boomers are coming and we are coming pretty soon. And in preparation of our discussion today, I thought it was useful to look at a little history and so I looked at a little history and if I can refer you to a chart over to your right, Doctor, this is a graph basically of our deficits starting in 1989. And to reference those who are looking at the graph, up is good, down is bad. When the graph is going down the deficits are increasing. And if you look at the history of this thing, in 1989 to 1992 the deficit was increasing and I don't mean to blame the first President Bush for that because he actually did some things to try to reduce the deficit at the end of his term. Then from 1992 to 2001 we saw us on a continuous and surprisingly continuous and reliable improvement of our fiscal condition up to surpluses up to the year 2000, 2001. And since that time we have not seen a general or gentle diminution of our fiscal process. We have seen a precipitous fall into deficits down where we are 521 billion in the hole at this time. And we are in a situation right now that some want to essentially continue the course of increasing spending on the one side and decreasing revenues on the other.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I asked myself, well, maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe it is to create jobs. So if we can look at the next graph. We will look and see if these policieswhat impact they have had on our job creation in this country. And what this is, is a graph of the job creation during respective presidents going back to Truman, 4.6 million increase. One point nine million for Eisenhower. Four hundred seven million for Nixon. Reagan, 5.3 million the first time, 9.3 million in the second. We get down to the last 3 years, and we see the first meaningful negative number of 3 million jobs lost net during this last term of office. So job creation has not been an excuse, if you will, for the creation of these enormous deficits.
So where do we go from here? Well, I need to ask your thoughts because what we have seen and you alluded to in your testimony is you have alluded to an increase in spending, both in defense and in discretionary domestic, during this current management of the U.S. Government. But we have also seen attempts and future attempts to reduce the revenues of the United States Government. And I just want to ask you a general question. Given the deficits that we have seen, given the fact that you and I both know this is a fantasy that we are going to cut them in half within 5 years, when we know that we haven't even included the cost of the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war or the AMT or the trip to Mars, given that we both know that, does it make sense, is it irresponsible to continue on a course of greater spending and reduced Federal revenues and, if not irresponsible, is it inadvisable and, if not inadvisable, is it risky? And if not risky, should we have a yellow flag up, which I hope you will show to this country, to change these policies from increased spending and decreased Federal revenues?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congressman, I think that much of what you have said and much of the concern that you have expressed is actually stated in the President's most recent budget document. In short, I certainly know that the financial people within this administration are acutely aware of all of these issues and to my knowledge, the President is as well. So I have no reason to disbelieve that he is going to make every effort to in fact move in the direction which you are suggesting.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. INSLEE. Well, let me suggest a reason that I am concerned aboutif we can have the next chart.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired. One more chart.
Mr. INSLEE. Would you allow me 30 seconds or not, Mr. Chair?
The CHAIRMAN. Of course.
Mr. INSLEE. Thank you very much.
The reason that I am concerned is the President has suggested new spending, namely a war in Iraq, which is not in his budget, number one. And number two, we have folks here who are suggesting increased reductions in Federal revenues by making tax cuts permanent for upper-income folks that will cost $1.3 trillion. We have new tax proposals in this budget of about $135 billion, and we have an increased debt service of over $700 billion associated with the new debt my constituents are paying due to the debt created on this President's watch.
So I guess the question is, is there some reason for concern if you believe, as I do, that these proposals have the prospect of reducing Federal revenues over the long term?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Congressman, the first thing I would do is something I regrettably haven't done in the last year or 2, that is to urge you to restore pay-go and discretionary caps, because unless you get a budget process system in place which enables you to handle decisionmaking so that priorities can be constructed in a manner which will ultimately get you to where you want to go, I don't know how you do it. And I, remember, had a long regrettable session before a committee of this House in September of 2002 in which I urged that the then-expiring pay-go and discretionary caps be reinstated largely because, much to my surprise, they had been very successful during the period of their existence in requiring an evaluation by the Congress of various alternatives, and recognizing that there is double-entry bookkeeping that one is required to adhere to; that the books have to balance in one way or another, or you have to borrow. And so I think as step number one, that is what I think ought to be done.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. INSLEE. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I would just ask unanimous consent for 10 seconds to express the hope that at some point Mr. Greenspan will explain what he meant by regrettable in that last characterization.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I am sorry. Regrettable in what context?
Mr. FRANK. You said there was a regrettable appearance before the committee.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, I regret the fact that in retrospect I was utterly unsuccessful.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from California Mr. Ose.
Mr. OSE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is interesting sitting up here listening to the other Members' comments. Coming from California with an embedded unemployment rate of 6-1/2 or 7 percent, we would relish, for instance, the unemployment rate in Vermont of around 3.2 percent. I don't know what the gentleman refers to when he is otherwise berating you, but we would welcome a 3.2 percent unemployment rate in California.
Mr. Chairman, I am overtaxed, overregulated, and overlitigated, just pure and simple, and I am trying to do everything I can to reduce every one of those burdens. I have three primary questions, two of which I would like to submit verbally to you, and then, as I understand it, you can respond in writing.
The first has to do with the Executive Life situation. U.S. Attorney Deborah Yang in Los Angeles recently negotiated a plea with Credit Lyonnais in which they pay the Federal Reserve a penalty of $100 million for certain transgressions they admitted to. I am curious how the Fed came to that $100 million number. I am curious how the Fed intends to use that money. Is it going to go to offset the damages that the policyholders of Executive Life suffered, or is it going to be used for some other purpose? That is my first question. I would be happy to submit that in writing.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, let me respond to it, if I may.
Mr. OSE. All right.
Mr. GREENSPAN. The actual agreement, as I recall it, is that $375 million is involved in restoration of losses to policyholders, and that an additional $175 million is involved from third parties. The 100 million you refer to is a civil penalty related to a violation of the Bank Holding Company Act, and we are required by law to pay that over to the United States Treasury, so that we don't do anything with it.
I believe that the reason it turns out to be that amount is it is the judgment of all the people involved that that was the appropriate amount of fine given the nature of the particular transgression that was involved in that episode. So it is in relation to other related types of violations of the Bank Holding Company Act. I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to know what the general level of fines is but relative to what other transgressions there were, that did, when I heard the number, seem to be the right approximation.
So should those numbers be five times as large or one-third as large? I don't think one can argue. But I do think that for this particular episode, relative to all others, seemed to me, as I had to vote on it, the appropriate number.
Mr. OSE. Do I understand you to say that the $100 million, the Fed will not get involved in the decision of what happens to that 100 million; that it gets paid over to the Treasury?
Mr. GREENSPAN. That is correct.
Mr. OSE. Thank you.
A question I would like to submit for response in writing has to do with the differing reports regarding job growth, I think, from the Department of Labor in December and a second Federal agency in early January. One showed significant growth, and one showed at best generally flat employment numbers. I will be happy to forward that to you accordingly.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OSE. But my time being constrained, I want to follow up on Mr. Royce's question. He had asked you about the impact of sales of instruments held by foreign entities on the currency exchange rates, and your response had focused on short-term instruments. And I think your point was that the duration of the instrument is more influential for short-term instruments than otherwise. I am curious of your position of the sale or transactions dealing with longer-term instruments.
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, clearly if longer-term instruments are sold, the tendency is to have larger price changes, larger capital gains and losses. The reason I raise the issue about the maturity is that central banks try to be highly liquid in their holdings of foreign exchange reserves, which means they tend to have relatively short maturities. And consequently, if they are going to sell, one would presume that of necessity a significant part is going to have to be short-term maturities, which will have only a de minimis effect on interest rates in the United States because the short-term rates are heavily impacted by Federal Reserve policy; longer-term rates are not. And were it the fact that any significant slowdown in accumulation or liquidation were involved, then I would say there would be a greater impact, but my understanding of what the usual holdings of these institutions are, that does not seem to be a significant threat, as best I can judge.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlemen's time has expired.
Mr. OSE. Just one follow-up, if I may.
The CHAIRMAN. Briefly.
Mr. OSE. Is it your point, then, that the impact of the central bank transactions is constrained due to the duration of the instrument that they are using?
Mr. GREENSPAN. You mean on their part?
Mr. OSE. Yes.
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, it is not constrained. They are doing it voluntarily. I am just merely saying people who are concerned about significant liquidations or changing in investment policy on the part of foreign central banks on interest rates on U.S. Treasury securities are, I think, more concerned than they should be.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OSE. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from California Mr. Sherman.
Mr. SHERMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This has been a surprising week. I opened my L.A. Times yesterday, went to the headline ''Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas,'' and then I come to this committee, and just to comment about your opening statement, Mr. Chairman, where you put forth the idea that 6 percent might have once been defined as full employment.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I don't remember my saying that.
Mr. SHERMAN. No, no, you didn't. The other chairman. We have two chairmen in the room.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I beg your pardon.
Mr. SHERMAN. And I was would say that I think we are about the same age. When I was studying economics, they told me 3 percent was full employment. A decade or two later, maybe 4 percent. And if 6 percent was full employment, then today we would have an unemployment rate that was too low, which is at least not what I am hearing from my constituents.
The other Mr. Chairman. Back in 1997, you testified to us, I was a green Member of this House, before the Budget Committee, that the CPI as calculated overstated the rate of inflation, and that hence the inflationary increases to Social Security checks are a point, a point and a half higher than they need to be to maintain purchasing power. Is that still your position, or have they made such enormous improvements over at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that we now can rely that that CPI Index is something you would support?
Mr. GREENSPAN. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has indeed made significant changes and very materially improved the existing published index. However, they also have an index called the CPI Chained Index, which is far more realistic with respect to measuring the cost of living. That is not officially employed in either indexing of the tax system or of outlays or benefits. If it were or, say, had been employed instead of the current published CPI, we would have had a fairly significant reduction cumulatively in the budget deficit. About 60 percent, as I recall, would have come out of increased revenues, because the indexing would have been slower, and about 40 percent out of entitlements. So
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SHERMAN. So if this superior index had been used, today's Social Security check would be 4 or 5 percent lower than the checks we just made out?
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, that is a larger number than I think.
Mr. SHERMAN. But it would be, what, about a point a year over the last 5 years, or less than that?
Mr. GREENSPAN. No. It would be in the few tenths per year, and the tax revenues would have been higher by a somewhat higher proportion.
Mr. SHERMAN. We have got the largest trade deficit in history. We are perhaps the only government in history that thinks exporting jobs is good, imports are good. You have got two large Asian governments that are pushing their currencies down vis-a-vis ours both by buying U.S. Treasuries on the one hand, and, in the case of China, adding to that a fixing of its rate of exchange with us.
If the Japanese and Chinese Government simply abandon all efforts to influence currency values, what effect would that have on the yen and yuan dollar exchange rate, and what effect would that have on the trade deficit? This is no small question, I realize.
Mr. GREENSPAN. The general view in the marketplace is that there is a so-called home bias in Japan with respect to holding yen as distinct from foreign currencies. The consequence of that is basically to raise the long-term value of exchange rate in international markets, because obviously if households are not buying any foreign asset, nor, in fact, are financial institutions, in any significant measure, you are having an abnormal reduction in the demand for external currencies, which means you have upward pressure on the yen.
The institution, the ministry Finance has been, as you well know, endeavoring to hold the rate down by significant purchases of dollars. And one must presume that were that procedure abandoned, for a short time at least, the yen exchange rate would go up. My own impression is it would only go up for a while, but not stay there.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The issue of China is a little more complex in the fact that they have capital controls in place. But, again, what that does is to create a lesser demand for foreign currencies because Chinese residents are inhibited in what they can buy with respect to what they can invest in foreign currency. So one also presumes that were the purchases reduced or ceased, then exchange rates would rise accordingly.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from North Carolina.
Mr. JONES. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Mr. Greenspan, I would like to ask you a yes or no question. Have you had a chance to read Paul O'Neill's book, The Price of Loyalty?
Mr. GREENSPAN. I have glanced at it. I have not had a chance yet to read it.
Mr. JONES. Well, I have found it in a positive way very interesting, the relationship, a positive relationship of you and Mr. O'Neill and how you discuss the monetary issues that we are facing in our Nation under the new President. And for any of my colleagues, whether they be Republican or Democrat, if they haven't read it, I think they would find it very interesting.
I do want to pick up very briefly, because you have answered both sides as it relates to outsourcing. I am from North Carolina. I share the concern of Mr. Watt, who spoke earlier; Mr. Manzullo, who just spoke. You were quoted in the Washington Post yesterday, and I want to read this accurately. It says: Greenspan counsels that workers hurt by outsourcing can be confident that new jobs will be displaced over old ones, as they always have. Yet you answered a question on one of the questions earlier that said that you know that approximately 2 million people have been out of work for 1 year who are out here looking for jobs.
My question is, when you give an answer to a person or a group of people that are losing their jobs, and they are doing the very best they can, trying to get educated in different areas of training so they can get a job, how long does it take for this transition to take place?
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. I think that is obviously the relevant question. And the context in which I was using it was over a period of several years, because if you look at the data that underlies all of these relationships, it appears that over time we, in effect, employ 94, 95 percent of the workforce, and that as jobs are lost, they obviously must have been replaced, and indeed at increasingly higher wage rates, because the real incomes are going up as well.
It is the transition which is so difficult and so stressful for people, because as I mentioned before, we are dealing with a weekly turnover of a million jobs. And the fact that a significant part of them, like two-fifths, are involuntary means that a lot of people are losing their job every week.
Yet if you look over a protracted period of time, you find that an ever-increasing number of Americans are employed in ever-higher-paying jobs. Something must have happened between state one and state two, so to speak. And is basically human ingenuity always finds new ways of doing things, and there are always new jobs being created. And indeed that must be the fact, or our numbers are all wrong, and we have every reason to believe that they are fairly accurate.
The reason it is a problem is that most of the new jobs are relatively high-tech, and one of the things you can't do is forecast what innovation is going to be. And so when you ask, you know, what new jobs will there be, and where are they, it is very difficult to tell in advance. But they are there, as I put it, the quote is correct, as they always have been. And I know of nothing to suggest that that process is in any way changed in this particular period.
Mr. JONES. Well, I have great respect for your knowledge and ability, and I can only say that I hope that this transition takes a fastis in a faster pace than it is now, because people are hurting throughout this country. And I have never seen quite the frustration I have seen. My father was in Congress for 26 years; he was a Democratic Congressman. I am here as a Republican, came in 1994. And some of my colleagues have said this: I have never seen the frustration I am seeing now. So I hope we as a government and Congress and the Presidency and you and the Fed, that we can somehow bring some confidence to a lot of people that I think are hurting pretty badly.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me touch on one other issue, and then this will be my last question, Mr. Chairman.
As people are losing their jobs, and some are getting lesser jobs, meaning income, lesser jobs, do you see any signs that concern you or the Fed that the consumer using his credit card is beginning to get into a dangerous area?
Mr. GREENSPAN. There is a general rule that we usually adhere to which sometimes is right, most of the time is right, sometimes is wrong: That the person who knows best about what they can take on in credit is usually the consumer himself, and that as a general proposition has proved over the years.
We are nonetheless aware that there are innumerable cases and highly publicized cases of egregious behavior on the part of numbers of people in the financial area. The debt servicing charges of credit cards are rising, and it is hard to tell whether there is merely the fact that technology is improving, finance is improving, and this is just a normal course of how people deal.
I mean, for example, we have this great concern that mortgages continue to rise relative to income. Well, it has, it is, and it is rising significantly, but that has been going on for 50 years. And the problem is that the asset side of the household balance sheet has been rising as well, and hence the true burden of the debt is matched by the assets.
And I suspect, but I don't know for sure, that in most cases that is largely the issue with credit card debt; that merely looking at the debt or what the monthly payment is relative to income forgets the fact that assets in households relative to income are also rising progressively. And as a consequence, we at this stage are not overly concerned that there are debt burdens which are very difficult for the American public to handle on average. I mean, obviously when you integrate that with the job problem of people losing jobs, that is where most of the difficulty occurs, but on an ongoing basis, people who are employed are reasonably successful in knowing how to handle their credit cards and their debt burdens generally.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The Chair would announce that we have been notified by the floor we will have a vote somewhere between 1:30 and 2:00. The Chairman has been kind enough to stayannounce he is going to stay until 2:00. I want to let everybody have an opportunity to answer questions. We are going to try to stay strictly to 5 minutes as best we can. And I thank the Chairman.
And I would now recognize the gentlelady from Oregon Ms. Hooley.
Ms. HOOLEY. Thank you.
Chairman Greenspan, we are glad you are here. Thank you for coming. I have a couple questions.
We see every day that there are new corporations that are offshore outsourcing. In fact, it reminds me about 3 years ago of a train going up a hill, and all of a sudden we reach the top of the hill, and now outsourcing is like that train going quickly down the tracks. I am very interested in your views about this trend, and I am particularly interested in how you feel about American consumers' personal financial, medical information being sent abroad to call centers, to filing centers. The consumer reporting agencies are now sending their credit files abroad because of outsourcing, and I am concerned about exactly what happens, or what could happen, once that information is outside our borders.
Do you believe this information is adequately protected when it crosses our borders, and do you feel that anything should be done to increase the protection of this sensitive data? First question.
Let me get you the second question quickly. We just had a discussion about the outsourcing, where the new job is going to be. I can remember when we had talks about trade, and during those debates it was argued that while manufacturing jobs may be lost because of a result of those agreements, that overall this loss would serve a greater good by refocusing our economy and displaced workers on more productive sectors such as high-tech or service industry jobs. And now those jobs are being outsourced to foreign countries.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My question is thissecond question: Now that we have exported our manufacturing jobs, now that we are exporting our high-tech jobs and our service jobs, what areas are left for us to devote our productivity toward? I mean, we talked about people being unemployed. I mean, these people are desperate, they can't find a job. They have said to me over and over again, look, we want retraining, we just need to know what is out there in the future, what direction should we go when we are being retrained. And I just want to know, you know, what sectors of our economy are going to drive this massive job growth? People want to know that.
And you are right, the transition is hard, but what do you tell people how should they be retrained? What does our future economic growth look like?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congresswoman, with respect to your first question, I think it is an interesting issue with respect to the privacy and security of a number of the types of issues that occur when you are moving information and data over satellite transmission. I assume that everything is appropriately encrypted and that the security is as good as you can make it. And, indeed, we have that problem domestically with a vast proportion of data of a very private nature moving across our own country. My own impression is that the encryption is not bad, and, in fact, they do a reasonably good job, but I don't know that for sure.
On the issue of the outsourcing and the jobs question, there are two problems herefactual questions. Let me take a step back. What we do know is that, as I have mentioned several times here today, that we are confronted with the fact that jobs continuously increase in the country over, say, 3-year moving averages at ever higher real wages, meaning wages that enable people who earn them to effectively purchase ever more amounts of real goods. And so we have this problem which how is it possible that on the one hand our data system is saying that jobs are forthcoming and at ever higher wages, but we hear of all of these problems which everyone is having? And they are real problems. It is not just anecdotal, minor issues. There are real hardships out there for very large numbers of people.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I suspect that part of the reason why we are running into this issue is the fact that jobs, the level of jobs has actually gone down as much as it has gone down for a significant period of time, and that in turn is directly related to this extraordinary acceleration in productivity. And that puts us in a very difficult dilemma.
We cannot, I would hope, be against increased efficiency and increased productivity which enhances the standard of living, yet we cannot deny that there has been a fairly significant reduction in jobs as a consequence of that. And what that then does is it emphasizes all of the problems of perceived job loss occurring as a result of imports, whether it is goods or services or outsourcing or whatever. And I believe, although obviously it is a forecast, that this is going to change, and it is going to change because I find it utterly inconceivable that an advanced society such as ours can continue to grow output per hour at the rate we have been going at, and that it must eventually regress back to a more sustainable normal level. When that happens, things will change, but until it happens, I think we have the types of problems which you are very correctly outlining.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlewoman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Iowa.
Mr. LEACH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, in thinking through your testimony today, frankly, in prior testimony yourself and prior Fed Chairmen, it strikes me that the Fed congressional exchange is largely about the politics of economics and the economics of politics. And on the first side we in the elected branch ask you questions about interest rates, price stability, economic growth, jobs. And as I look and think over this testimony, there is very little complaint on the first two. In fact, your records areas Chairman of the Federal Reserve, is sterling on interest rates, it is sterling on price stability.
On the jobs front, of which you share accountability with all sorts of sectors of the economy as well as the government, we are in an imperfect situation. But I am hard pressed not to think, A, that you are very wise to suggest that our current job situation could improve without affecting price stability; and that is excellent advice; but secondly, that we would be in far worse shape even though the situation is currently imperfect if we didn't have price stability and didn't have low interest rates.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And so it is hard from a congressional perspective on the subject of the politics of economics not to give you exceedingly high marks. And then on the reverse, on the economics of politics, it is hard to think that you are not giving Congress rather low marks, and that you are warning about the deficits, and you are also warning in awhat I think is a most abnormal part of your testimony todayand not that it is abnormal to your thinking, but abnormal in your emphasisto raise the protectionist warning. And as we look at politics, that is becoming an increasingly significant issue.
And so what I would like to ask you today is two questions. One, if you could mete out further your concerns on protectionism. I mean, for instance, I have always thought that protectionism, the jobs it really most protects are those in politics rather than those in the economy. But is it your view that if America moves in a far more protectionist direction, we will lose or we will gain jobs? And can you assess that for the committee as an observation from a professional economics and from a monetary authority perspective? And then I have one further question after that.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I think it is indeterminate. I think one thing that you can say about protectionism is it will reduce the average standard of living, but it doesn't offer any significant insight into what the level of jobs will be, because the issue of jobs is determined in a broader international context. And while I don't deny that there are relationships between protectionism and jobs, I would say that is not the issue. The issue is standard of living and the stability of the economics system.
My concern about protectionism is that it could create very significant distortions in the financial system, international financial system. And importantly and almost without question, to the extent that we succeeded in closing our borders to trade, our standard of living would invariably decline. It may decline in the context of a very high rate of employment or a very high rate of unemployment. But the one thing is certain is that our standard of living will decline.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEACH. My second question relates to the other somewhat abnormal part of your testimony which relates to the changing value of the dollar relative to other currencies. And one of the great questions in the international economy today is that if the value of the dollar depreciates further, will this cause inflationary pressures in the United States of any significance? Or do you think that that is a circumstance that is offset by increases in productivity and the continued increase in productivity abroad as well as here?
Mr. GREENSPAN. As I pointed out in my prepared remarks, Congressman, we have seen, as you know, quite a significant reduction in the value of the dollar on a trade-weighted basis, and we would have expected to see a corresponding rise in the dollar value of the imports or the dollar price of imports if foreign exporters were successful in keeping their profit margins in their domestic currencies constant.
Now, what we find in the data is that the increase in the dollar price of imports has gone up much less than that which would have kept the exporters' margins constant, which leads me to conclude that they have had a margin squeeze, but observing, let us say, amongst the Europeans that exports out of Europe denominated in euros have been relatively flat. Now, what that says is that the incentives that one would have expected to be cut off by the sharp rise in the euro and the decline in the dollar would have induced a significant contraction of exports from Europe to the United States. That did not happen.
We conclude on the basis of other data that there has been a very major increase in hedging by foreign exporters essentially shorting the dollar, and the realized capital gains from the hedged short position offset in part the loss in profits that occurred as a consequence of the rise in the euro vis-a-vis the dollar. And that is one of the reasons why we have not seen a significant impact at all on domestic U.S. inflation as a consequence of the decline in the dollar if you don't generalize that type of analysis worldwide.
However, as I also indicated, that cannot go on indefinitely. The adjust processes will invariably occur if the exchange rate were to continue lower.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The impact, however, has certainly to date been very modest. But in principle, over time you have to get a reflection in the domestic price level because you cannot continuously hedge in these markets, because hedging is actually quite expensive.
So the answer is to date we have seen very little effect of the decline in the dollar on American inflation. If it should continue, however, then we would begin to see some rise in import prices, and, because of that, some impact on overall American inflation. But even under those conditions, the numbers look really quite small, and as a consequence it is not something which gives us considerable concern at this point.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady from California.
Ms. LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Once again, Mr. Greenspan, it is good to see you here today.
Let me follow up with Ms. Hooley's question in terms of your response. First of all, with regard to outsourcing, you indicated it does put us in a dilemma, which we all understand. But you also mentioned that there is a perceived problem of job loss as a result of imports. But I think that problem is not perceived, Mr. Chairman. That is very real. We have lost 3 million jobs, many of which
Mr. GREENSPAN. No, may I interrupt you? When I uttered that word, I said I wish I could edit that word out.
Ms. LEE. Well, please do.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I just did.
Ms. LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. You know, I gave you that opportunity, so I am glad I was here to hear that.
Let me ask you, though, where are the jobs of the future? We are telling our young people get trained, go to school. They are playing, most of them, playing by the rules only to find that when they get out of school, there are no jobs. Manufacturing, high-tech, service jobs are gone. So what do we tell our young people, especially in communities of color? We have young people who just can't get jobs, who resort to economic activity that leads to crime, to incarceration. Where are the jobs of the future? And how do we convince our young people that going to school, playing by the rules is still the thing to do?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. I think that is a very important issue, and what I would say to you is the following: That what we do know is that those individuals who are highly schooled, who have capabilities in math and the sciences or who are literate, or who have specific skills which are competitive skills, those people when they get jobs do well. When you have hiring virtually stagnant, what skills you have doesn't matter.
If I believe that were going on indefinitely, then I would say to you, I don't know what to answer, but I am reasonably sure that this is a temporary phenomenon that will change. But even when the job market opens up and people start to hire, I would still have some problems in actually designating where those jobs are going to be, because, as I mentioned before, a significant part of these jobs are from innovation, and it is very difficult to forecast what is going to happen.
All I can say to you is that what history tells us is that those people who are most educated, who have the most general skills, meaning those who can write well, who can do arithmetic or beyond that, who have generic skills which you basically learn through elementary school, through high school mainly, those people are positioned to take whatever jobs are created even if you don't know in advance what they will be.
Ms. LEE. Mr. Chairman, it is hard to convince young people then to stay in school and acquire these skills when, in fact, they are looking for a job at the end of the road.
Mr. GREENSPAN. I cannot disagree with what you said. It is not an easy issue. And if there were a simple way, I could tell you, tell them X, Y, and Z; I would give you X, Y, and Z. All I can tell you is what the facts are. But to try to convince somebody of a fairly complex issue, namely if you do this, this will happen, that is not an easy
Ms. LEE. It is not easy, but it is a sad state of affairs if we can't figure that out, Mr. Chairman, because we have millions of young people who want us to figure that out in terms of their educational pursuits.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me also say to you that those individuals with highly developed skills, with graduate degrees in math and science and technology, we are finding now that engineers are laid off. They can't find work. You look at what has happened in Silicon Valley, people with those types of backgrounds are unemployed, and so we can't even say that they are part of the future in this country. So I am not so sure if we have actually looked in the right direction for the right answers.
Finally, let me just ask you about the unemployment rate in the Latino and African American community. Given the fact that this administration doesn't believe much in stimulative spending, what do you think is the answer given the historical neglect of many of our communities of color? What do we do in terms of encouraging African Americans and Latinos to develop their skills and find jobs when, in fact, the unemployment rates are going up and not down?
Mr. GREENSPAN. If jobs are not available, you have a hopeless task. The only way that you have possibilities of success is if you have an economy in which jobs are growing and opportunities are growing. And, indeed, as I mentioned several times before, that has been the history of this country, and I see no reason to expect that it will change.
It doesn't take very much to go back in earlier periods, early 1980s, 1975, earlier periods especially before World War II or even the Great Depression. I mean, things were really awful. I mean, it is very tough, and it is very discouraging, but we came out of that. In other words, there were people in 1975, and I remember I was working in government, that we were not going to get out of the recession that we were in, and that job loss was horrendous, the stress and difficulties people had were never going to change. And if you believe that, it is very discouraging.
I happen not to believe that. And I understand that there are very significant problems currently in the job market, and if I didn't believe it was going to change, I would be very discouraged. But I think it will.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentlelady's time has expired.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania.
Mr. TOOMEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Chairman Greenspan, for your testimony today. I have two questions for you. The first is kind of a follow-up on this jobs question. More specificallyand I apologize if you have addressed this earlier, but my understanding is we haven't developed this, and that is what, if I am correct, is a growing recent discrepancy between the payroll job numbers and the household survey numbers. It seems to me that in recent months that discrepancy has been wider than it has been historically. And at first blush one looks at this and says, well, we know that the payroll job growth necessarily excludes many people from the workforce, namely those who are not on someone's payroll. The household survey therefore would seem to have the merit of being broader in the sense that it captures those people who are individual proprietors working from their home not on a payroll.
I guess my question is, on the household survey basis, job growth has been quite strong actually in at least recent months, reasonably strong, much stronger than payroll. Is there something systemic going on in the economy where the picture is actually better than what the payroll numbers suggest? Is the household survey more reliable than it once was? Is there something that we should be looking at between these two?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, Congressman, I wish I could say the household data were the more accurate. Everything we have looked at suggests that it is the payroll data which are the series which you have to follow, and for several reasons. First, the payroll data are essentially based on quarterly estimates from the Unemployment Insurance Fund data system, which picks up a very big chunk of wage and salary incomes and hence employment. So it is benchmarked on reasonably hard data.
The payroll series, to be sure, does not include proprietors, does not include farm workers, and there is a whole series of other; it includes multiple jobs. But when you make all of those conceptual reconciliations, you still have a yawning gap between these two trends. If you believe the household data, jobs are recovering measurably. If you believe the payroll data, that is not the case.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What one of the things I suspect is the problem is that we have estimates of population which we link to the last census data, which is 2000. We add births, subtract deaths, and we add net immigration. The household data, remember, is a 50,000 or 60,000 sample of households, and all they get are ratios of the total people in the household, how many are employed, how many are not employed. And those ratios are linked to the independent estimate of population. And, hence, you get your employment data as a direct reflection of the population numbers, which we suspect are overestimating the growth in the population of the United States.
Working backwards, assuming that all of the workers who report to the unemployment insurance system, which is full coverage for certain groups of people, and then try to add to that proprietors who we pick up from the household survey and a number of other relationships, we can build up to a synthetic population number measured independently of the way it is done in the Census Bureau. And, lo and behold, what we find is a much slower rate of population growth and, by implication, a lower rate of net immigration.
I would point out that in the figures just released for the month of January, they have already made a correction of something of like about 400,000 jobs and about a half a million in population. So the issue is being joined.
All I can say to you is having looked at both sets of data in some considerable detail, it is our judgment that as much as we would like the household data to be the more accurate, regrettably that turns out not to be the case.
Mr. TOOMEY. Is there a reason that this discrepancy has widened in recent months versus the past?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, part of it is that remember that even though it is a very large sample, the household is a sample, and it has so-called variance or discrepancy in it. When you basically take the households from 50,000 or 60,000 up to something over 100 million, you happen to have a large potential element of error there, and I think that that is part of the problem.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Kansas will be our last questioner.
Mr. MOORE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Chairman Greenspan, for being here.
In the 25 years I practiced law before coming here, I learned there are at least two sides to every story. And I appreciate the fact of the 5 years I have been in Congress, you have come here and shown at least both sides and some good news and bad news about any situation.
The good news here obviously is we have come through some rough economic times, and we are still maybe in those economic times. But you point out there are some positive indicators, such as the lowest interest rates in 45 years, increased productivity, and low inflation. You also expressed some concerns; for example, the imbalance in the Federal budgetary situation unless addressed soon will pose serious longer-term fiscal difficulties. And also Federal budget deficits could cause difficulties in the relatively near term. And you also cite a statement from OMB that says very sizable deficits are in prospect in the years to come.
My comment then here is this. I have concerns as well, Mr. Chairman. I would like your reaction, I guess. We have a $7.1 trillion national debt, we have a projected deficit of $521 billion, and not including the Iraqi supplemental that the Director of the OMB talked about. We have a debt tax of almost a billion dollars a day of interest rate on the national debt, of a billion dollars a day. And I am concerned, I guess, and remembering back on your testimony for the 5 years I have been here and trying to put this all in perspective, you have cautioned us about the prospect of rising interest rates ifnot if, but when our economy takes off, if we are not acting in a fiscally responsible manner. And I am old enough to remember the 1970s, and I remember interest rates of 12, 14, 16 percent, which I think would be absolutely devastating to the business community and this country, to real estate, to consumer borrowing, all of those things if that happened again. Should I be concerned about that, or is that not a concern, Mr. Chairman?
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GREENSPAN. I frankly cannot conceive that returning to us. It would require a highly inflationary economy, which I trust that we have learned to avoid in this country. Certainly the Federal Reserve, having been through those earlier periods, is acutely aware of the critical importance of maintaining price stability, and with price stability, we won't see those interest rates.
We have to be aware of what the longer-term outlooks are and where changes are required and what we can do about them. The longer-term fiscal problems things are very easy to forecast, because one thing which we know for a reasonable certainty is that the baby boom generation currently in the labor force will gradually move from the labor force and productive work, creating tax revenues, to retirement. And we have on the books at this stage levels of entitlement commitments which, when you multiply them by the relatively certain level of retirees we are going to have out there, we have got some very serious problems of fiscal balance that have got to be addressed. And the sooner we do that and the sooner we start to take action to glide-path into those types of problems, the less the adjustments are going to be. And so I have argued that the sooner we can come to grips with them, the better off we will be for lots of different reasons.
Mr. MOORE. If we don't do that soon or do it later, what happens to future generations, our children and grandchildren, when we start to retireand I am saying we, and I am a baby boomerwhat happens?
Mr. GREENSPAN. Well, the basic problem is the long-term Federal debt. I might add, the 7 trillion figure that you use, that is a gross number.
Mr. MOORE. Yes, sir.
Mr. GREENSPAN. But the net figure, which is half that, does not include the contingent liabilities that we have. I mean, we call our commitments under Social Security contingent liabilities, but I find it utterly noncredible that the Congress is going to significantly alter the general path in a way which is going to be other than a fraction of what is now a $10 trillion contingent liability. I don't deny that it can be cut back, but a very large part of that 10 trillion to me is real debt and indistinguishable.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MOORE. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman's time has expired.
Before dismissing our witness, let me say the Chair notes that some Members may have additional questions for the Chairman which they may wish to submit in writing. Without objection, the hearing record will remain open for 30 days for Members to submit written questions to the witness, and to place their responses in the record.
Mr. Chairman, once again we thank you for your excellent testimony. It is always good to have you here, and we look forwardI don't know whether you will or not, but we will look forward to having you back in about 6 months.
The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:58 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]