The key moment in Ben Bernanke’s press conference was when he explained that the Fed wasn’t doing more to ensure full employment because it’s worried that additional action might cause inflation expectations to come unmoored and ”if inflation expectations were to become unmoored the cost of that in terms of employment loss in the future would be quite signifiant.” In other words, he’ll make sure to err on the side of policy that’s too tight because if he tries to get policy right he might accidentally end up being too loose and then he’d need to tighten in response and that would be bad.
As a technical issue, the problem should be addressable with level targeting. But as an issue of priorities, there’s just no addressing it.
Imagine you’re teaching a kid archery. You tell him to aim for the bullseye. But you also warn him that if the arrow goes to the left of the bullseye, he’s going to be in big trouble while if it goes to the right of the bullseye you won’t really mind. Well, naturally the kid’s never going to hit the bullseye. He’s going to shoot too far the right. And that’s the Fed right now. They’ll act to prevent total collapse of output and employment but what really worries them is inflation. They’re so worried about inflation that they’re happy to have an output gap that persists for years and years and years.