The Way Out Of Our Economic Mess
By Terry Coxon, Casey Research
“A rock and a hard place” is a long-running theme of Casey Research publications. It refers to the dilemma the US government has wandered into with its continued policy of rescue inflation. The “rock” is what will happen if the Fed pauses for long in printing still more money – the collapse of an economy burdened by an accumulation of mistakes that rescue inflation has been keeping at bay. The “hard place” is the disruptive price inflation that becomes more likely (and likely more severe) with every new dollar the Fed prints to keep the effects of those mistakes suppressed.
When the dollar was cut loose from the gold standard in 1971, the Federal Reserve was freed to create as much new money as it saw fit, whenever it saw fit. Enabled, it turned with enthusiasm to doing what central bankers imagine they are supposed to do – eliminate downturns in the economy. The Fed fancied itself as being on the answering end of a 911 system: whenever the financial markets signaled distress, whenever the economy came down with the flutters, the Federal Reserve would dispatch a van, an ambulance, a fire engine or even an assault vehicle, whatever seemed right but in every case full of cash.
To most people, rescue inflation was entirely agreeable. It made their world more comfortable and seemed to make it safer. Comfortable, yes. Safer, no. The pernicious but entirely welcome effect of rescue inflation was to cover up mistakes and keep them going. It allowed people – especially people handling other people’s money – to make progressively bigger mistakes. Lending on implausible mortgages and buying securities tied to those mortgages are the most recent examples, follies that required decades of training.
Rescue inflation allowed everyone to get away with everything. The assurance that a high-speed vehicle with flashing lights on top would always arrive in time let individuals pay for houses with a little cash and a big mortgage. It let corporate managers rely on borrowing heavily, rather than selling stock, to raise capital. It let investors cheerfully accumulate junk bonds. And it let banks hire and set loose bright young minds to design financial gizmos with astounding leverage guaranteed to deliver excellently profitable results for so long as the economy continued on its excellent and guaranteed way. All of those hang-glider stunts seemed safe because if at any point the prices of the assets underlying anyone’s commitment failed to rise… a Federal Reserve rescue inflation vehicle would surely dash to the scene. That’s what FedVans are for.