O peso da idade

Quando a taxa de juro nominal do banco central está presta nos 0%, há pouco mais a fazer para estimular a economia via política monetárias. Uma das propostas feitas recentemente por vários economistas passa por aumentar a taxa de inflação esperada, na expectativa de reduzir por vias travessas a taxa de juro real – uma ideia que se tem revelado estranhamente difícil de consensualizar. Em Hard money and gerontocracy, Noah Smith avança com uma explicação alternativa: e se for culpa da pressão dos idosos, cujos rendimentos não estão indexados à inflação?

Who loses from inflation? “Net nominal lenders”. These are people who own a lot of non-inflation-adjusted bonds, and not a lot of stocks, and who get less of their income from wages. Who are these people? They are old people.
Owning lots of bonds, and not much stock, is the wise thing to do when you’re old. Stocks are riskier than bonds, and old people can’t afford to take as much risk – this is the core idea of “life-cycle investing”. Also, obviously, old people have a lot of savings (and hence a lot of income from investments), and not much in the way of wage income. So old people tend to be hurt by unanticipated inflation, while young people are generally helped.
(…) Now, for this to be what’s really going on, old people must exert some sort of control over the Fed. We typically think of the Fed as independent, apolitical, and technocratic – not the type of institution that would be swayed by the selfish desires of one cohort of the population to extract rents from its descendants. But who knows; maybe the legendary political strength of the elderly somehow filters through to the brain of the Fed chairman.
And if that’s true, it means that elderly countries will have a much harder time fighting recessions. If old people’s desire for the redistributive benefits of low inflation overwhelms the need for the Fed to boost growth, then we’re going to have a much tougher time ending our current stagnation…to say nothing of Japan, where hard money is much more of a cult even than here in the States, and which has been mired in near-deflation for decades.

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