Finance / Government Watch

What Does the Speed Limit Have to do with the Economy?


Speed Limits. Anyone who drives is familiar with them and knows they are at risk of a fine if they are caught greatly exceeding the limit. But there is another great reason not to greatly exceed it—safety. If your car goes too fast for too long there is a tremendous risk of losing control. At a minimum, it will take great pains to reduce that speed safely. Hitting the brakes at high speed is dangerous and fraught with peril, so it’s best not to reach 95 miles per hour in the first place.

Believe it or not the term “speed limit” is used in the discipline of economics. Economists have generally referred to the speed limit as the level of growth an economy can tolerate without creating inflation.  If the economy grows faster than it has capacity to, prices will rise quickly on nearly everything.

Adam Smith alluded to the concept, without using the actual words “speed limit” in his famous book The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Smith pointed out that the degree of wealth in a nation is “regulated by two different circumstances; first by the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which the labor is generally applied; and secondly, by the proportion between the number of those who are employed in useful labor, and that of those who are not so employed.”

Congress and the President are charged with managing fiscal policy, which the amount of taxation and government spending on goods and services. The Federal Reserve Board (The Fed) manages monetary policy, chiefly through setting interest rates, but also through supervising banks and regulating the level of reserves that such institutions must keep on deposit.

It is little news now to most people that there has been a failure of “all of the above.” Folks see the failure every day at the gas pump and in stores.  Yet it is important to understand the failure. It’s not just a matter of “hindsight is 20/20 vision.” Experts like former Obama Treasury Secretary Larry Summers were sounding the alarm right after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

In short, Democrats in Congress were hell bent on passing a third stimulus plan. Economists warned against it, as the economy was growing. More money was not needed.  Vaccines were available to those who wanted them.  In short, we were emerging strongly from the 2020 pandemic. No matter. The Left was in charge on Capitol Hill, and they were determined to make their mark, and probably thought they could use the giving away of goodies (childcare benefits, another $1,400 check to most, $300 bonuses to not work) to their benefit at the next election.

What about The Fed? Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen were famous for mouthing the words “transitory” or “just temporary” whenever asked to explain rising prices. Both were caught flat-footed, but they should not have been. The Fed’s job is to “take the punchbowl away before the party gets out of control.” What does that mean? It means you prevent economic overheating in the first place.

The Fed’s control mechanism is raising interest rates gradually to dampen demand. By slowly making loans a bit more expensive, it prevents housing and other big ticket items from increasing too fast in price, as fewer customers can afford the loans to buy such products. Of course, The Fed has been raising interest rates rapidly. But it does little good now. It’s akin to closing the gate after the horse is already out of the barn or removing the alcohol from the party after everyone has had way too much. 

U.S. economic policy since the last Federal Reserve Board induced recession by Chair Paul Volcker in 1981-82 has been to stop inflation from ever starting in the first place, thus negating the need for harsh medicines. But the folks in control of government refused to study history or even basic economics.

Now it’s too late. The Atlanta Fed, using preliminary data, said this week that the U.S. economy is already in a recession. The official Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data is due out later in July. It is expected to show another contraction in quarter two—April 1 to June 30. Two consecutive quarters of declining GDP is the definition of a recession. 

People may be down, but they aren’t out. We can all vote. A nationwide election of the entire 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate is November 8th. Folks should keep in mind that every single Democrat in the Senate and every Democrat in the House but one (Rep. Jared Golden of Maine) voted for inflation with their “yes” on the third stimulus, which Democrats oddly called The American Rescue Plan. 

What a name— Rescue Plan. Rescue from what? The bottom line is the economic speed limit was greatly exceeded. And excessive spending, just like excessive speeding, has caused the same result—financial carnage for American families.

Jeff Szymanski works in political communications at AMAC, a senior benefits organization with nearly 2.4 million members.  He previously taught high school economics for 15 years.

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10 months ago

The whole idea is to break this nation, financially, health wise, our freedoms, and almost above all to disarm it. “Tyrants from the break of dawn have been sensitive to arms in the hands of the people.” Why do you think the demorats and the rinos are almost maniacal to disarm this nation? There are literally thousands of firearms ‘regulations’ on the books and a “criminal justice system” that defies logic…criminals now have more rights than law abiding citizens!
Destroy independent business, bring it to ruin…Bush Sr. in his presidential acceptance speech opined:”We must usher in the ‘New World Order’….do your research and then look at every nation’s history that was once independent…it’s about bringing down the “pain in the butt” nation that was founded on freedom, prosperity, actual rights for citizens…our Constitution is a thorn in the “new world order” self proclaimed “rulers”..Think this is out there? Think again.
Patrick Henry: “When a nation forgets it’s God, tyrants’ soon forge it’s chains”. This was a nation built by God fearing men…it has by and large ceased to be a God fearing nation.

10 months ago

I am one of the RINOs that still believe in elections, & strongly recommend that you use your power at the Ballot Box

10 months ago

But according to those in power, people who are using their voice to vote correctly are not doing it right because they are not listening to the noise being spilled out by them.

David Millikan
10 months ago

This is what happens when there’s an ILLEGAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL DICTATOR in White House of PRIVILEGE.
Don’t forget the PRIVILEGED Congress and Senate who live in FANTASY WORLD and are SELF-RIGHTEOUS and believe they know better how to run YOUR LIFE than you do.
Why isn’t aoc running off at the mouth since she supposedly has an economics degree?

10 months ago
Reply to  David Millikan

She’s too busy laughing all the way to the bank.

10 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Way too many useful idiots actually believe leftist politicians desire a life of austerity for themselves.

10 months ago
Reply to  David Millikan

She has a degree? I never would have thought so. She seems so very stupid. The degree certainly couldn’t be in American History or government. She was a barmaid by trade. I guess she had enough sense for that.

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