Ben Bernanke was at Jacksonville University this past Friday discussing the Federal Reserve with college students. It’s actually a very good discussion. He goes through the banking crisis step by step and provides a very clear explanation of the Fed’s role during the crisis. He confirms most of what I have been repeating for weeks now.
Most importantly, however, he explains what the Fed is doing going forward. He makes several critical points:
- He explains that the Fed “is not printing money”. They are merely swapping treasuries for deposits (sound familiar?). As he mentioned in his op-ed the other day there is no reason to believe this operation is inflationary. It alters the duration of debt outstanding and nothing more. QE IS NOT INFLATIONARY.
- He says the inflation via commodity costs (caused entirely by speculators and not fundamental changes) are not a concern because the slack in the economy will make it difficult to pass these costs along to consumers (sound familiar?). Unfortunately, I think the Chairman is overlooking the fact that corporations will be less likely to hire as they see their margins squeezed. This is a significant issue the Chairman appears to be glaring over. It should not surprise any of us that he is viewing this environment as an academic and not as a business owner. Just one more piece of evidence showing he is unqualified for this position.
- The Chairman proves that he absolutely does not understand how the US monetary system functions when he says that the US is analogous to Japan in that we have high government debts. He claims that Japan funds their debt internally. He clearly has no idea that the bond markets fund nothing in the USA. He goes on to explain that the US budget deficit creates risks for the country despite previously explaining that high inflation is not a problem. Clearly, the Chairman believes the government balance sheet is no different than a household balance sheet. No wonder he has had this crisis wrong since before it started.
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