When you consider what a large share of world output is concentrated in the Eurozone, this interview with ECB Chief Jean-Claude Trichet is really terrifying. Take this:
FOCUS: Mr President, the rate of inflation in the euro area is close to zero. You have done a good job – are you now out of work?
Trichet: As you know, the latest available figure is 0.9%. What counts is price stability in the medium term. And from that point of view, my colleagues and I are proud to be able to tell the citizens of Europe that they have a credible and stable currency. We promised them that the euro would be as stable and credible as individual national currencies had been earlier. And we have kept our word.
You might think that “success” in generating near-zero inflation at the cost of anemic growth and sky-high unemployment would be nothing to brag about. And is maintaining a “rate of inflation . . . close to zero” really the EBC’s job? Well, no it’s not:
Trichet: We have made it very clear that we always take the decisions necessary to guarantee price stability over the medium term: an inflation rate below, but close to, 2%. Observers and market participants are fully aware of this. It is precisely because of the challenges posed by price stability that we stand ready for action at all times. I call that “credible alertness”.
0.9 percent is not close to 2 percent. It’s below target, falling a period of over a year when the ECB was even further above target. What’s more, it’s only as high as it is because of rising energy prices. Read the whole interview, though, and you’ll detect nary a whiff of concern for the idea that unemployment might be too high, that deflation might be a risk, that ECB policy may make it impossible for governments to get out from under their debt-loads, or anything else. It’s crazy.