The debt crisis is coming

Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve must stand up to Trump. If they don't, the American economy is heading for disaster.

Here's the moment I realised the next financial crisis is inevitable. It wasn't Aug 23, when President Donald Trump wondered who was the United States' "bigger enemy": Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell or Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It wasn't the week before those comments, when it looked as if the trade war would tip the world into recession. Rather, it was several months ago, at the end of last November, when Mr Powell was giving a speech at The Economic Club of New York. By that point, the Fed had already raised short-term interest rates three times in 2018, and the economists, policy wonks and business journalists at the lunch were looking for any sign that he might do so again. Fed chairs rarely make their policy changes explicit, but it was clear from Mr Powell's comments that he was putting on the brakes.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2019, with the headline 'The debt crisis is coming'. Print Edition | Subscribe