Robert Samuelson used his column to relate concerns expressed by former Fed chair Ben Bernanke that the Fed would lack the ability to fuel a recovery when the United States next falls into a recession. Although Samuelson doesn't go into detail, the background here is that the country has faced a persistent shortfall of demand at least since the collapse of the housing bubble.
One way this shortfall can be filled is with larger budget deficits. Unfortunately, there is intense political opposition to budget deficits fueled by people like Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson and the Washington Post. The failure to have larger deficits have cost the country trillions of dollars in lost output and made the economy permanently weaker, in effect imposing a huge tax on our children and grandchildren in the form of lower wages.
The other obvious way that the shortfall could be filled is with a smaller trade deficit. If our trade deficits were, for example, 1.0 percent of GDP instead of the current 3.0 percent of GDP, we would not be facing a shortfall of demand and Bernanke's problem would disappear. Unfortunately, people in policy circles largely cling to an absurd trade deficit denialism under which the size of the deficit cannot affect demand and employment, an argument which is made explicitly in an NYT column this morning by former Secretary of State George Schultz and Pedro Aspe, a former secretary of finance in Mexico.