Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Can Someone Please Stop the Federal Reserve From Doing More Damage?

Thanks to the recent debt ceiling fight it looks, at least for now, like we won't have to be victims of another bone-headed stimulus plan which does almost nothing to create jobs but ends up costing us our solvency.  Yes, we have a lot of work to do but at least we shouldn't be hearing anything about trillion dollar infrastructure projects any time soon.  Unfortunately, however, we still have the Federal Reserve to deal with.  The Federal Reserve is the government body that, since its inception in 1913, has devalued the dollar by a whopping 96%.  It's also been trying to stimulate the economy recently through  "quantitative easing" now that interest rates are already near zero.  Essentially that means they are putting additional money into the system by buying assets and paying for them with dollars.  The theory goes that the people they buy the assets off of would then invest that money and stimulate the economy.  Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve have already tried this twice, with not so great results.  It seems that investors take that cash from the Federal Reserve and invest it in one of three places, the US stock market, emerging market stock markets and commodities/metals (i.e. oil, gold etc.).   Investing in stock markets does almost nothing for people outside the New York area (especially when they invest in the Mumbai market), where our financial sector is headquartered, and rising commodity prices actually hurts the economy as people then have to pay more money to feed their families and to just simply get to work.  I guess for the folks at the Federal Reserve, the third time is the charm, as there are now hints of another round of quantitative easing, dubbed QE3.  In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, 3 former top Fed officials, including Donald Kohn who was Vice Chair up until a year ago said they would be open to another round if the economy continues to slow and inflation subsides.  Brilliant idea.  Isn't that supposed to be the definition of psychosis.  Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Even before quantitative easing was started a couple of years ago, the United States pretty much had a weak dollar policy for years.  Tell me how that has helped us?  When the dollar is weak, foreign investors need to wonder not just whether an investment is a good one but how much of their return will be lost through a weakening dollar.  We also saw oil and other commodities go through the roof as the dollar weakened, lowering profits and disposable income.  No wonder we have few growth industries left and have to resort to artificial stimulus for the economy to grow.  We need to stop all these financial shenanigans propping up our economy, let it walk on its own.  My guess is that after the initial pain we will be better off, especially if we also cut job crushing regulations and taxes.

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