Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you this morning. We are in the midst of a once-in-a century credit tsunami. Central banks and governments are being required to take unprecedented measures. You, importantly, represent those on whose behalf economic policy is made, those who are feeling the brunt of the crisis in their workplaces and homes. I hope to address their concerns today. This morning, I would like to provide my views on the sources of the crisis, what policies can best address the financial crisis going forward, and how I expect the economy to perform in the near and longer term. I also want discuss how my thinking has evolved and what I have learned in this past year. In 2005, I raised concerns that the protracted period of underpricing of risk, if history was any guide, would have dire consequences. This crisis, however, has turned out to be much broader than anything I could have imagined. It has morphed from one gripped by liquidity restraints to one in which fears of insolvency are now paramount. Given the financial damage to date, I cannot see how we can avoid a significant rise in layoffs and unemployment. Fearful American households are attempting to adjust, as best they can, to a rapid contraction in credit availability, threats to retirement funds, and increased job insecurity. All of this implies a marked retrenchment of consumer spending as households try to divert an increasing part of their incomes to replenish depleted assets, not only in 401Ks, but in the value of their homes as well. Indeed, a
As of 10/23/2008 10:01:54 AM
necessary condition for this crisis to end is a stabilization of home prices in the U.S. They will stabilize and clarify the level of equity in U.S. homes, the ultimate collateral support for the value of much of the world’s...