Exit the Maestro

By Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

No man's reputation is safe at his retirement, and so it is with Alan Greenspan's. History's verdict will await subsequent events that reveal the long-term consequences of his 18 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve. But until then it's silly to discount (as the Economist recently did) his apparent accomplishments. Doubters should consult standard economic statistics covering his tenure since 1987:

· The U.S. economy (gross domestic product) has expanded 72 percent, and its growth rate has outstripped that of virtually every other advanced country.

· The number of payroll jobs increased by 32.1 million (31 percent) from August 1987 (Greenspan's first month) to December 2005.

· There have been only two brief recessions, those of 1990-91 and 2001, lasting a total of 16 months.

· Business productivity has risen about 50 percent since 1987.

· Interest rates dropped from 8.39 percent on 10-year Treasury bonds and 9.31 percent on 30-year mortgages (1987 averages) to 4.5 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.

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