Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Most Americans are ignorant to the history and impact of central bank policy in the US on the problems we are experiencing and have experienced before regarding our economy. The first failure came when Alexander Hamilton introduced the concept of having a Central Bank in America right after the revolutionary war. His idea was to place the US in a positon to be able to get loans or credit from lenders and be able to borrow great sums of money. To get the bank started, he proposal to fund a national debt via several bills in 1790 including the Debt-Assumption and Debt Funding Bills. With this concept would come massive speculation and fractional reserve banking. Many were against this idea. Thomas Jefferson wrote about this when his cousin Chief Justice John Marshall used the views of Hamilton to uphold the constitutionality of a national bank in his McCulloch v Maryland decision, in essence putting the nation on a dependency of credit. Jefferson noted that the constitution had not delegated to the congress to be able to incorporate a bank (10th amendment) nor to borrow or regulate commerce and that the establishment of a national bank was not necessary, merely a convenience and congress had the constitutional duty to do what was necessary only (pps. 502-574).
Failures of Federal Reserve policy since then and over the years have been too numerous to cite. The issue is that the Federal Reserve and the concept of central banks in general act as if they are independent institutions when the truth is they are never independent. This was understood by both Andrew Jackson and FDR, and to a lesser extent Abraham Lincoln. Central banks seem to operate in a vacuum that is isolated from the public and even worse, the public angst and disdain regarding their policy efforts.
Central banks are failing and have been failing for a long time since their most recent establishment under the Woodrow Wilson administration under the cloak of darkness. These chronic problems keep rearing their ugly head because the models that they employ are broken for they fail to connect monetary policy with the real economy (aggregate demand). This has become more problematic since the reign on Alan Greenspan. This Greenspan culture operates on constructs that don’t exist in the real world and even seems to suggest central bankers of the current batch have no idea of what is going on in the rest of the world outside of Jackson Hole. No matter what they do it always fails and never accomplishes the goals or objectives that said monetary policy was supposed to accomplish.
Take the example of quantitative easing and keeping interest rates artificially low and constant. This was supposed to put more loot into the coffers of business and to some extent the people and spur consumption - the assumption being that if you give folk more loot they will spend it, or at least consume more. But we see just by looking at consumption behavior, business are not spending by either investing or buying equipment and regular folks are saving instead of spending. Even with mortgage rates at 3.5 percent, people are not buying homes. It begs the question what world are central bankers living in because all they talk about (if Janet Yellen can be taken at her word) is raising interest rates. On the one hand the public is being told the Central bank can control economic outcomes but can’t control inflation – a concept that anyone can see is not only problematic but also ridiculous.
Why would they slow the economy down by raising interest rates when it is growing at a staggering and paltry pace already? This makes no sense in particular when the average citizen is confronting real economic hardship and despair and all the evidence (weak fundamentals) indicates this. If this is the path the US central banks takes, it will only prove what many already believe, that the central bank is for the wealth plutocratic class only and it only implements policy on their behalf that presents modern capitalism as merely socialism for the rich. If this is the case then maybe, just maybe, central banks shouldn’t take on fiscal policy. In all honesty, maybe fiscal policy should be only implemented by folks the citizens vote on, or maybe we should vote for central bankers for that matter.
If I was given the authority first step I would take to destroy this Greenspan culture of hybrid fiscal/monetary policy would be to get rid of the Volcker rule in its entirety. Maybe this way we won’t have to hear dumb azz Janet Yellen cite David Reifschneider anymore. Reifschneider for the record seems to be Yellen’s go to guy. Whatever he says she holds on to like it was the word of God. Reifschneider is a Senior Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank and posits (really guesses without evidence) that bond purchases and low-rate promises should be enough for the Fed to deal with severe recession if such were to occur. This is why I think she has not been out into the real world for she is always saying the same thing, or rather something to the effect that US GDP growth to lift labor markets. Again, an observation I don’t see even looking at BLS data, for there is no known value for potential economic output whether one is taking about labor or GDP – all of this is just speculative talk.
Simply put, central banks, in particular the US Federal Reserve should not be involved in developing, formulating or implementing fiscal policy. This should be left in the hands of the Treasury department in my opinion. One should ask what is their policy and where would we be if they couldn’t buy assets? Since 2008, the US Federal Reserve bank has amassed $2.5 trillion in Treasury securities and $1.8 trillion of mortgage-backed securities (maybe even more) through its asset-purchase programs, yet we still have deplorable growth and horrific levels of unemployment if you read between the lines. What will be next? Will we follow the lead of Japan and start to buy exchange-traded funds (ETFs), or the ECB and begin to purchase corporate debt? Or even worse follow the path of Prime Minister Modi in India and remove cash from circulation? It is even easier to do in The US with electronic/digital money. More so given that today, money has no real value in and of itself due to separation of them from the original sources of money – gold and silver. Used to be a time when paper money just represented how much gold and silver we had, but not anymore. Add this to the massive depreciation and devaluation of money over past decades, a cashless society could be a real manifestation. But I regress.
All I am saying is that the philosophical acceptance of Greenspan economics has shown the ineffective, foolish and disconnection from reality that Fed policy is, and that we need to move beyond the make believe boundaries of Central bank policy (guessing) before it is too late. It is impossible to look at all economic activity in a contrived environment, under a contrived lens in which all stating points begin with full employment, inflation at 2 percent, and interest rates atnormal longer-run levels. Honestly, like the Euro, the Federal Reserve Bank was flawed from birth.