Touch and Go

The old Naval Air Station in Charlestown, RI was right next to the summer house we lived in as kids. Aviators would fly training patterns over our heads, so close we could see their orange flight suits. They would circle back to the airfield, touch wheels down, then come back around.

Though we couldn’t see the planes land, we could hear their engine pitch wind down, cough to a stall, then rev up as they climbed. The airfield was closed in 1974 and is now a park with ball fields and tennis courts. But fragments of the air strips remain.

As the Memorial Day weekend brought up summer memories, the Fed also aims for a touch-and-go landing. Can it calm down inflation, yet keep growth and employment going?

Economists say that’s unlikely given recent history. Only the 1994-95 period of rate hikes to 6% managed to slow inflation without a downturn and higher unemployment. Arguably the 2018-19 period – when the Fed raised rates to 2.5%, then lowered them to 1.75% – would have kept the growth engine from stalling. Until Covid-19 entered the picture.