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PhilT

The Federal Reserve - Inflator Of Bubbles

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Starting with "Easy" Alan Greenspan's policy of keeping US interest rates at excessively low levels (1%) in the early 2000s, and continuing with Bernanke's slashing of rates from 5.25% to 2% following the sub-prime crisis, the US Federal Reserve is clearly the friend of irresponsible lending and credit/housing bubbles. Now the Fed has been and wants to continue bailing out (ultimately at taxpayers' expense) the very institutions that helped to cause these bubbles, e.g. Bear, Fannie and Freddie, and generally the investment banks and others through various other measures such as opening the discount window.

It was therefore refreshing to hear a voice of reason at a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing (on 15 July). Senator Jim Bunning had this to say:

link

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I know we have a lot of ground to cover today, but I want to say a few things on the topic of this hearing and of the next.

First, on monetary policy, I am deeply concerned about what the Fed has done in the last year and in the last decade. Chairman Greenspan’s easy money in the late nineties and then following the tech bust inflated the housing bubble and created the mess we are in today. Chairman Bernanke’s easy money in the last year has undermined the dollar and sent oil to new record highs every few days, and almost doubling since the rate cuts started. Inflation is here and it is hurting average Americans.

Second, the Fed is asking for more power. But the Fed has proven they can not be trusted with the power they have. They get it wrong, do not use it, or stretch it further than it was ever supposed to go. As I said a moment ago, their monetary policy is a leading cause of the mess we are in. As regulators, it took them until yesterday to use power we gave them in 1994 to regulate all mortgage lenders. And they stretched their authority to buy 29 billion dollars of Bear Stearns assets so J.P. Morgan could buy Bear at a steep discount.

Now the Fed wants to be the systemic risk regulator. But the Fed is the systemic risk. Giving the Fed more power is like giving the neighborhood kid who broke your window playing baseball in the street a bigger bat and thinking that will fix the problem. I am not going to go along with that and will use all my powers as a Senator to stop any new powers going to the Fed. Instead, we should give them less to do so they can do it right, either by taking away their monetary policy responsibility or by requiring them to focus only on inflation.

Third and finally, since I expect we will try to get right to questions in the next hearing, let me say a few words about the G.S.E. bailout plan. When I picked up my newspaper yesterday, I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turns out socialism is alive and well in America. The Treasury Secretary is asking for a blank check to buy as much Fannie and Freddie debt or equity as he wants. The Fed’s purchase of Bear Stearns’ assets was amateur socialism compared to this.

And for this unprecedented intervention in the markets what assurances do we get that it will not happen again? None. We are in the process of passing a stronger regulator for the G.S.E.s, and that is important, but it allows them to continue in the current form. If they really do fail, should we let them go back to what they were doing before?

I will close with this question Mr. Chairman. Given what the Fed and Treasury did with Bear Stearns, and given what we are talking about here today, I have to wonder what the next government intervention in private enterprise will be. More importantly, where does it stop?

I happened to watch this hearing live on CNBC. Bernanke gave a minimal, almost contemptuous, response, with what appeared to be a smirk on his face. He knows that this is a lone voice amongst the powers that be.

Edited by PhilT

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  • 399 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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