Posts tagged Federal Reserve
October 1, 2011
Gary North | LewRockwell.com
You probably missed any media coverage of the September 26 speech by Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Sarah Raskin. The media ignored it. You would be wise not to ignore it.
There were a few brief news reports about it. There was no detailed analysis. The media usually ignore speeches by any FED Board member other than Bernanke.
Raskin’s speech reveals what is slowly dawning on the public. The economy is getting worse, and the FED is powerless to stop it.
Her speech was an attempt to reassure her listeners that the FED really does know what it’s doing, contrary to the evidence. The Federal Reserve has spent 45 months trying to deal with the sagging U.S. economy. Nothing is working. It looks as though nothing will work. But she wants us to believe that it’s not the FED’s fault. She did not say whose fault it is.
I have offered a line-by-line analysis of her speech. If you have money in a retirement fund, you would be wise to read it. I have posted it here.
I do not expect many people to read it. People are too busy. Bernanke knows this. The other Board members know this. They give their speeches, which get little coverage. They receive little criticism. They receive little applause. They have little power.
The Federal Open Market Committee has the power. Every eight weeks, the FOMC makes decisions in closed-door sessions that affect a billion people.
Then why read speeches by members of the Board of Governors? Officially, they are the government’s only source of indirect control over the FOMC, which is made up of presidents of the regional Federal Reserve banks, who in turn are appointed by regional FED banks, which are privately owned.
Members of the Board are appointed by the President. Their organization’s Web address ends in .gov. Legally, the Board is in charge of the entire system. This is a convenient myth for public consumption. Operationally, the Board acts as the mouthpiece of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The New York FED is the most important private economic organization in the world.
Board members are apologists for the New York FED. When I say “apologists,” I mean this in the theological sense: “apologetics” – the defense of the faith. I do not mean it in the sense of offering an apology. The FED never says it is sorry for anything it has done. That would be perceived by Congress and the public a sign of weakness.
THE SYSTEM OF REPRESENTATION
The main spokesman for the FED is the Chairman of the Board of Governors: Bernanke. He is legally the agent of Congress. He is operationally the barrier between Congress and the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
This is how all government agencies work, and the Board of Governors is a government agency. The head of every cabinet-level department is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. He serves at the convenience of the President. He imposes the President’s wishes on the bureaucracy.
In a pig’s eye.
The Secretary of Education is close to impotent to change any major policy. There is only one way to change policy: stop all funding to every branch of the bureaucracy that implements the old policy. Fire them all. Sadly, this is illegal. They are protected by Civil Service law.
Well, then, just stop the funding the old policy. Shut down the departments. Move all employees to other departments.
Legally, this can be done. It is never done. There would have to be hearings before both houses of Congress. Endless hearings. The American Federation of Teachers would scream bloody murder, meaning the nearly permanent senior officers in the AFT would scream bloody murder. The hearings would go on for years. Then the President leaves office. His reform program ends.
The bureaucracy cannot be fired. The newly appointed Secretary of Whatever goes out on the hustings to give speeches to special-interest groups related to the Department of Whatever. He has little authority over the day-to-day operations of the department. His task is to defend the budget and the reputation of “his” department.
Officially, the departmental Secretary is the agent of the Administration. Operationally, he becomes the agent of the department he oversees for a few years. He will leave. The employees will remain. If you want to grasp this system in two minutes, watch this segment from Yes, Minister.
Members of the FED’s Board of Governors are appointed for 14-year terms. We read:
The full term of a Governor is 14 years; appointments are staggered so that one term expires on January 31 of each even-numbered year. A Governor who has served a full term may not be reappointed, but a Governor who was appointed to complete the balance of an unexpired term may be reappointed to a full 14-year term.
Once appointed, Governors may not be removed from office for their policy views. The lengthy terms and staggered appointments are intended to contribute to the insulation of the Board – and the Federal Reserve System as a whole – from day-to-day political pressures to which it might otherwise be subject.
There is no industry-related agency of the U.S. government that is more insulated from politics. Therefore, there is no agency that is more completely under the domination of the industry that it is supposed to control. (The CIA and the NSA are not representatives of industries. They are separate fiefdoms.)
If the United States Army were this insulated from politics, the USA would live in a militarized society. The Army would run the show. Its only major rivals would be the Air Force, the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and the Federal Reserve. To imagine that Congress would have any say in such a society would be naive. The defense industry would be the premier industry in the society.
Our society is a bankers’ society, meaning a handful of large banks. The supreme mark of this is the openly announced independence of the Federal Reserve from politics. No other agency of government has publicly claimed this degree of independence from politics, which means independence from the voters.
In every textbook on history or politics that mentions the FED, the author assures the readers that this utterly undemocratic arrangement is for the good of the people. The fact that the arrangement is a flagrant violation of the religion of democracy, which governs all tax-funded educational institutions, is never mentioned in polite circles.
So, our elected officials are not the operational agents of the voters in matters of banking. They are the operational agents of the big bank cartel.
Until the crash of 2008, most voters were unaware of this system of representation. But that crash changed the old climate of opinion. The reason was Ron Paul. His candidacy for the Republican nomination for President in the second half of 2007 got the message out. Then the crash and the bailouts confirmed his message.
This had not happened in the history of the Federal Reserve. The FED’s Board is now playing defensive politics. Yet, legally, it is not a political institution.
This is why people should pay more attention to speeches by members of the Board of Governors.
I will only go over the highlights here. I have covered the speech in detail elsewhere.
Like all members of the Board, she is burdened by the inescapable reality of the sagging economy. Unemployment is over 9% two and a half years after the beginning of the recovery. This has never happened before.
Housing prices are still falling. The bubble that popped in 2006 is still in decline. There is no sign that we are close to the bottom.
Consumer spending is stalled. This is a mark of government and central bank policy failure for a Keynesian economist. The only worse mark is falling spending.
She praised the FED for falling interest rates. She claimed that the FED’s monetary policies have achieved this positive result. What she, Bernanke, and other Board members never mention is this: falling interest rates are the universal mark of a recession in progress. Investors buy bonds in order to lock in an interest rate. They see this as safe-haven investing.
Falling rates since 2007 have been the result of investors who have moved their capital to government bonds. But FED officials claim that FED policies achieved this. So, Mrs. Raskin said this.
Rather than reviewing the vast academic literature regarding the effect of conventional monetary policy, I will simply pose the counterfactual question: What would have happened to U.S. employment if monetary policy had failed to respond forcefully to the financial crisis and economic downturn? Economic models – the Fed’s and others – suggest that if the federal funds rate target had been held at a fixed level of 5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 until now, rather than being reduced to its actual target range of 0 to 1/4 percent, then the unemployment rate would be several percentage points higher than it is today. In other words, by following our actual policy of keeping the target funds rate at its effective lower bound since late 2008, the Federal Reserve saved millions of jobs that would otherwise have been lost. Of course, substantial uncertainty surrounds various specific estimates, but there should be no doubt that the FOMC’s forceful actions helped mitigate the consequences of the crisis and thereby spared American families and businesses from even greater pain.
The FedFunds rate is the rate that applies to banks’ overnight lending to each other. Demand for this type of short-term funding collapsed in 2008. Banks have increased their holdings of excess reserves to $1.7 trillion. This is why we are not seeing hyperinflation. Bankers are afraid of another recession. They want money in the bank.
The FED can take credit for having given credit to big banks in the big bank bailout of October 2008, which was opposed by voters. The FED could argue along these lines.
It is true that interest rates fall in a recession. The last time in American history that we have seen rates this low was in 1933. But, because the Federal Reserve bought nearly worthless Fannie and Freddie bonds at face value from the government after Hank Paulson unilaterally nationalized the mortgage market in September of 2008, and because the FED swapped at face value its portfolio of highly liquid T-bills for illiquid toxic corporate bonds held by large banks, we are not in a depression. Which do you want: low interest rates with 9% unemployment or 12% unemployment. Those were our only choices in 2008 and 2009. Trust us.
But this is not the Party Line at the FED. The Party Line is that the FED’s increase of about $2 trillion in its portfolio was the source of bank stability, corporate survival, and an acceptable though unfortunate unemployment rate of 9.1%. The FED pushed down interest rates – rates that would have stayed high, contrary to all historical records of recessions. That saved the American economy and the world economy.
Raskin heaped great praise on the FED.
Given the magnitude of the global financial crisis and its aftermath, the Federal Reserve clearly needed to provide additional monetary accommodation beyond simply keeping short-term interest rates close to zero. Consequently, like a number of other major central banks around the world, the FOMC has been deploying unconventional policy tools to promote the economic recovery.
This is exactly what we would expect from one of five members of a government Board that governs monetary policy, and which is supposed to be held responsible for failure. But, as the video from “Yes, Minister” indicates, no one is ever supposed to be held responsible in a government agency. She thinks they deserve a round of applause.
My FOMC colleagues and I have recently been faced with complex decisions about the use of unconventional policy tools under extraordinary economic and financial conditions. And while we may not all agree with every decision, I believe that the public can have a very high degree of confidence in the fundamental integrity and soundness of our decisionmaking process.
My response is to give them a standing zen ovation: the sound of millions of one-handed people clapping.
Mrs. Raskin offered no evidence for hope of reduced unemployment, revived business investing, or increased consumer spending. She was remarkably silent on these issues. She reaffirmed the decision of the FOMC. It will be mid-2013 before the FED dares reverse its present policy of twisting.
In August, we decided to be more specific about the timing, and our two most recent meeting statements have indicated that “economic conditions – including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run – are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013.”
So, we are still in the swamp of low growth. We will remain in it for a long time, politically speaking. She has issued President Obama a challenge: run your campaign in a stagnating economy.
She offered no analysis of the labor market. Yet her speech was entitled “Monetary Policy and Job Creation.”
This was a defensive speech. It indicates that the FED has no plan to get the economy back on track.
Falling long-term interest rates are the preliminary sign of a looming recession.
What will the FED do when recession hits next year, as seems likely? What rabbits will they pull out of the monetary hat?
The FED is on the defensive. Investors should take heed.
Bill Gross: Assets Are $15 Trillion Overvalued And Fed Will Keep Rates At 0% Forever To Keep The Fantasy Alive2
PIMCO’s Bill Gross with a great monthly letter. Here are the key points:
- Over the past 30 years, paper asset prices rose 2X as much as they should have based on economic fundamentals
- This was the result of leverage
- The asset price rise in turn pumped up the economy’s fundamentals (Soros’s reflexivity)
- The government wants to restore the “old normal” (2007) not the “new normal” (slower growth as asset prices return to trend)
- Therefore… The Fed will keep rates at 0% for at least 18 months into sustained 4% growth
- Next year, when the inventory restocking effect wears off, 4% will be tough
[I]n a New Normal economy (1) almost all assets appear to be overvalued on a long-term basis, and, therefore, (2) policymakers need to maintain artificially low interest rates and supportive easing measures in order to keep economies on the “right side of the grass.”
Let me start out by summarizing a long-standing PIMCO thesis: The U.S. and most other G-7 economies have been significantly and artificially influenced by asset price appreciation for decades. Stock and home prices went up – then consumers liquefied and spent the capital gains either by borrowing against them or selling outright. Growth, in other words, was influenced on the upside by leverage, securitization, and the belief that wealth creation was a function of asset appreciation as opposed to the production of goods and services…
My point: Asset prices are embedded not only in our psyche, but the actual growth rate of our economy. If they don’t go up – economies don’t do well, and when they go down, the economy can be horrid.
To some this might seem like a chicken and egg conundrum because they naturally move together… if long term profits match nominal GDP growth then theoretically stock prices should too.
Not so. What has happened is that our “paper asset” economy has driven not only stock prices, but all asset prices higher than the economic growth required to justify them…
[L]et me introduce Chart 2 a PIMCO long-term (half-century) chart comparing the annual percentage growth rate of a much broader category of assets than stocks alone relative to nominal GDP. Let’s not just make this a stock market roast, let’s extend it to bonds, commercial real estate, and anything that has a price tag on it to see if those price stickers are justified by historical growth in the economy.
I am writing today to ask that you co-sponsor S.604: Federal Reserve Sunshine Act of 2009. This is a very important bill for ensuring oversight and accountability in the Federal Reserve, by allowing the GAO to perform an audit.
So-far, six of the seven representatives from our state have pledged their support for the House version of this bill, HR1207. The bill already has more than enough votes to pass in the House of Representatives. At the last count it had 237 votes.
This kind of legislation is very popular with the people of our state and the nation in general. We are ready to see some real changes in Washington D.C. and that means a real challenge to the unchecked power of the Fed.
In order to restore the reputation, both domestic and international, of our government and monetary system, it is essential that the public and the Congress be allowed to know what is going on at the Federal Reserve.
The Federal Reserve Board has become a de-facto fourth branch of government, it is un-elected and in many ways more powerful than the Congress. There are also many Constitutional questions as to whether the Congress even has the authority to establish a central bank; though that is a topic for future legislation.
Most Americans feel very strongly, as do I, that it is time we took the first step, on our path to transparency. This means a complete Audit of the books and records of the Federal Reserve Bank.
Please join the cause of Liberty and co-sponsor this bill.
This time the banks are zeroing in on Geithner’s cash giveaway bonanza, the “Public Private Investment Partnership” (PPIP). As expected, Bank of America and Citigroup have angled their way to the front of the herd, thrusting their snouts into the public trough and extracting whatever morsels they can find amid a din of gurgling and sucking sounds. Here’s the story from the New York Post:
“As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner orchestrated a plan to help the nation’s largest banks purge themselves of toxic mortgage assets, Citigroup and Bank of America have been aggressively scooping up those same securities in the secondary market, sources told The Post…
But the banks’ purchase of so-called AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities, including some that use alt-A and option ARM as collateral, is raising eyebrows among even the most seasoned traders. Alt-A and option ARM loans have widely been seen as the next mortgage type to see increases in defaults.
One Wall Street trader told The Post that what’s been most puzzling about the purchases is how aggressive both banks have been in their buying, sometimes paying higher prices than competing bidders are willing to pay.
Recently, securities rated AAA have changed hands for roughly 30 cents on the dollar, and most of the buyers have been hedge funds acting opportunistically on a bet that prices will rise over time. However, sources said Citi and BofA have trumped those bids.”(“Double Dippers; Citi and B of A buy laundered loans at lower rates”, Mark DeCambre, New York Post)
Thus begins the next taxpayer-subsidized feeding frenzy, featuring all the usual suspects. The race is on to vacuum up as much toxic mortgage paper as possible so it can be dumped on Uncle Sam at a hefty profit. These are the same miscreants the Obama administration is so dead-set on rescuing. Better to let them sink from their own bad bets.
How is it that industry rep Geithner couldn’t see that his latest round of corporate welfare would create incentives for the bank scoundrels to game the system again? Naturally, if the government goes into the business of buying crap-loans from teetering financial institutions, the speculators and snake oil salesmen will follow. And so they have. Citi and B of A are just the first to respond to Geithner’s pigwhistle. Next will be the hedgies and the Private Equity porkers, all nuzzling up to the Treasury’s feedbin.
Geithner’s plan is a disaster from the get-go. It jacks up the price of garbage assets, rewards the misallocation of capital, invites rampant fraud, and prolongs the recession. Worst of all, it transforms the FDIC into a hedge fund putting individual bank deposits at greater risk. Economist Jeffrey Sachs sums up Geithner’s “public-private” boondoggle in his article “Will Geithner and Summers suceed in raiding the FDIC and Fed?”:
“Geithner and Summers have now announced their plan to raid the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Federal Reserve to subsidize investors to buy toxic assets from the banks at inflated prices. If carried out, the result will be a massive transfer of wealth — of perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars — to bank shareholders from the taxpayers (who will absorb losses at the FDIC and Fed)…
The FDIC is lending money at a low interest rate and on a non-recourse basis even though the FDIC is likely to experience a massive default on its loans to the investment funds….In essence, the FDIC is transferring hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer wealth to the banks…The public will not accept overpaying for the toxic assets at taxpayers’ expense. Thus, it is very likely that the Administration will attempt to avoid Congressional oversight of the plan, and to count on confusion and the evident “good news” of soaring stock market prices to justify their actions. ….
Other parts of the plan support subsidized loans from the Treasury and, even more, from the Fed. The Fed is already buying up hundreds of billions of dollars of toxic assets with little if any oversight or offsetting appropriations. Since the Federal Reserve profits and losses eventually show up on the budget, the Fed’s purchases of toxic assets also should fall under the Federal Credit Reform Act and should be explicitly budgeted. (“Will Geithner and Summers suceed in raiding the FDIC and Fed?”, Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post)
As Sachs points out, the Fed’s liabilities will eventually be shifted onto the taxpayer. But that hasn’t stopped Bernanke from writing checks on an account that is overdrawn by $11 trillion. Nor has it compelled Geithner to seek congressional authorization before he leverages the FDIC up to its eyeballs. These decisions are all being made by a small coterie of bank loyalists who operate independent of any oversight or government supervision. They do what’s best for their constituents and let the chips fall where they may.
Earlier this week, Geithner asked Congress for additional powers to take over insolvent non-bank financial institutions. The Washington Post:
“The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document.”
Geithner must think he’s a shoe-in for the new “systemic regulator” post because of the exemplary way he handled the AIG bonus scandal.
Of course, in the bizarro world of Washington–where failure typically catapults one to higher office–it’s only logical that Geithner would be elevated to Uber-Regulator, not only controlling the public purse, but using his own peerless grasp of the marketplace to decide which institutions pose a systemic risk and need to be sidelined, and which need stepped-up government support via limitless capital injections.
Prediction: If Geithner is granted these special powers by the braindead Congress, the country will undergo the greatest period of bank consolidation in its 230 year history. This is a blatant power grab by a shifty character who has risen to his present pay-grade by nosing his way up the political stepladder. Congress had better get its act together and put an end to this nonsense or the nation will continue its fast-paced metamorphosis into a feudal oligarchy run by the Bank Mafia and Wall Street racketeers. The first step, is to give Geithner, Summers and any other of the Rubin-clones a full-body bacon-rub followed by a few brisk dunks in the shark tank. Then, hose down Treasury and bring in a whole new team.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz summed up Geithner’s “public-private” fiasco like this:
“Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don’t think it’s going to work because I think there’ll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer.”
It looks like the Attorney General of New York will at least attempt to shut down the Wall-Street/Federal Reserve brothel, in which billions of U.S. tax dollars were stolen by high-level U.S. government and Federal Reserve crooks.
The loot was placed into the hands of large institutions such as Goldman Sachs, formerly headed by the Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
This was, of course, one of those action/reaction/synthesis aka problem/reaction/solution enterprises, where those in positions of authority create the problem, then wait for the public to react and demand a solution; then they provide the perceived “solution,” which only goes to further the agenda they had set out with initially.
Cuomo Widens His A.I.G. Investigation
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Thursday afternoon that he was widening his investigation of the American International Group to examine whether its trading counterparties improperly received billions of dollars in government money from the troubled insurer.
Those counterparties include Goldman Sachs, which received $12.9 billion, as well as Société Générale of France and Deutsche Bank of Germany, which each received nearly $12 billion.
“Our investigation into corporate bonuses has led us to an investigation of the credit default swap contracts at A.I.G.,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “CDS contracts were at the heart of A.I.G.’s meltdown. The question is whether the contracts are being wound down properly and efficiently or whether they have become a vehicle for funneling billions in taxpayers dollars to capitalize banks all over the world.”
Other counterparties that received money from A.I.G. include Barclays of Britain ($8.5 billion), Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), Bank of America ($5.2 billion), UBS of Switzerland ($5 billion), Citigroup ($2.3 billion) and Wachovia ($1.5 billion).
The government injected about $180 billion in bailout money into A.I.G. to prevent its collapse after the company found itself on the wrong side of the credit default swaps that it sold. The swaps are insurance-like instruments that allow investors to hedge against bond defaults.
A.I.G.’s financial products division sold the credit default swaps, and it has faced a wall of public outrage after it paid out $165 million in retention bonuses. Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo said A.I.G. employees had agreed to return $50 million of those bonuses.
The fed is planning moves that would more than double its balance-sheet assets by September to $4.5 trillion from $1.9 trillion. Whether expressing approval or concern over the fed’s intentions, most commentators fail to understand the real magnitude of the projected expansion of the US monetary base because they don’t take into account the amount of dollars circulating abroad.
At least 70 percent of all US currency is held outside the country, and this means the US monetary base is considerably smaller than the fed’s overall balance sheet. Take, for example, the true US domestic money supply at the beginning of September 2008, before the fed started its quantitative easing. From the Federal Reserve’s website, we know that currency in circulation was 833 Billion. This translates as 583 Billion dollars circulating abroad (70 percent), and 250 Billion dollars circulating domestically (30 percent). Since the bank reserve balances held with Federal Reserve Banks were 12 billion, that gives us a 262 Billion domestic monetary base as of September 2008. Now compare that to the projected US domestic monetary base for September 2009 which is 3,818 billion (4,500 billion – 583 billion (dollars circulating abroad) – 99 billion (other fed liabilities not part of the money supply)). The fed’s planned balance sheet expansion results in a 15-fold increase in the base money supply.
262 Billion = US monetary base as of September 2008 (minus dollars held abroad)
3,818 Billion = projected US monetary base in September 2009 (minus dollars held abroad)
3,818 Billion / 262 Billion = 15-Fold Increase in US monetary base
There’s clearly an awful lot wrong with the financial system of today. The talking heads and bureaucrats will tell you that they need more money powers to sort the situation out. They say that they must create trillions of dollars and have the ability to take over large companies; all of this is to bail out the financial institutions.
When you are thinking about this situation, you have to realize that the original purpose of the Federal Reserve banking system was to give the large Wall Street bankers the peace of mind of knowing that they would always be bailed out, so they would never lose any of their own money. With a system of this sort in place, financial institutions take risks that they would not have otherwise taken.
Lately, the investment banks such as Lehman and Merrill Lynch have gotten into the habit of “investing” 30 dollars for every dollar in capitol that they have. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this is incredibly irresponsible. (more…)