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The Jehoshua Novels


Fire the Fed.

Ben Bernanke is rapidly digging himself down the chart of worst central bankers of all time. Captain Carnage, former Helicopter Pilot has vowed to raise the inflation tax again and again

Now getting to the outright bottom is very unlikely, because it’s filled with catastrophic blunders of hyper-inflation and depression. However, it’s not beyond possibility that by this time next year he will be rated the among worst central bankers in a developed nation in the post-WWII era. After yesterday’s hair raising double digits per year Producer Price Index, one would think that even Captain Carnage would realize that he’s not just pushing on a string, but wrapping a wire around our necks.

Now failure is a team effort, and the cult of blaming or praising central bankers for everything is well overblown. Instead, central bankers are either accommodative, neutral, or hostile to what the economy and fiscal authority are doing. In the end, central bankers have to decide whether the economy is going in the right, neutral or wrong direction. Most of the time, they should be neutral, and let the political and economic processes play out. Greenspan and Bernanke decided to be sluttishly accommodative to a poor fiscal policy of invade Iraq and do a no strings attached bailout of the stock market’s largest investors, and an economy that decided that it was time to build bloat into every part of the chain: food, houses and gasoline.

The first thing to remember is that market forces are always present, even in the most regulated and planned and top down of economies. Stop believing in the invisible hand, and it will slap you silly. And it is. The American public thought that it could grumble about Bush and take the cheap money. This, was a poor move. If you don’t like the management team, don’t go long the stock. And yet Americans went very long George W. Bush.

What is happening, as the wholesale price report makes very clear, is that finished goods are not going up, but that market forces are adapting: the pricing power is in the hands of resource producers, who are raising prices: 20%, ex-food, ex-energy. This means that inflation hasn’t been tamed, merely moved. Cheap production is being bought at the price of resource profligate development. The dollar you are saving on your tv, is coming out of your wallet at the gas pump, and not coming in in your paycheck. Yes you. Not some other guy. You.

Don’t like this backlash spin of the paper for oil economy, where your house goes down, but your bills go up? Fire the Fed.

Now there are limited things that a fed chief can do about this, but one thing he should not be doing is pouring dollars on a dollar glut. There are a series of reasons for this. One of the most important effect is in global stability rising food prices world wide. This means that power in other countries is moving from the general public, to the resource producers in those nations, and to those small channels of people who have access to western off-shoring dollars. This leads to rising inflationary pressures around the world, and those people… come here. If you want to know the root of the wave of immigration, documented and undocumented, it is right there in front of you: we are inflation taxing out of house and home millions of people around the world. They can’t eat where they live, so they go to where they can.

Want to solve this crisis? Fire the Fed.

In addition to creating global instability, it is also pulverizing the dollar. We stand within a breath of 2 dollars per pound sterling. The dollar slides to new lows against the Euro. Is the Euro over bought? Sure, but one possibility is that Ben Bernanke will just sell more dollars. And he has the keys to the printing press, and he’s not afraid to use them.

Don’t like Bernanke’s keys in your dollar? Fire the Fed.

What’s even worse of course is this process is not bailing out the housing market, prices continue to plunge

Fire the Fed.

People on Capitol Hill and in the White House like Ben Bernanke, he's willing to trundle up there and tell them that his ink is wet and his gates are wide open. What's not to like? Don't raise taxes, just let Bernanke inflation tax so that the borrow and squander party can go on and on like there is no tomorrow.

However, there is a reality about the inflation tax, and that is that at the beginning people like it a lot, because they get some of that inflation pricing power. At the end, they hate it, because they realize that for every dollar in of inflation tax they get, the pile of dollars they have gets smaller by much more.

Don't like the fact that your fixed income is getting eaten by the White House and Congress? Fire the Fed.

Recessions are painful, no question about it. And in this make the poor pay era, they are more painful still. Americans got shafted hard the last recession, and have not made head way. But guess what, Americans voted, not once, but again and again, to get shafted. More over, they are about to vote to get shafted yet again, having decided that all that is really needed is a few small adjustments. Americans seem to think that "unity" means everyone pulling together, when in fact it means elites closing ranks as they stick ordinary people with the bill.

Don't like this? Fire a whole mess of politicians. But on the way through, fire the fed.

Are there solutions. At this point, not really. What's going to happen here is that the powers that be are going to inflation tax their way out of this downturn, that's what they keep saying they will do, and since they get to vote raises for their own salaries, there's no reason to believe they won't. After the downturn is over, it will be a very slow recovery. Then, at some point, you, the public, will be sick and tired of being sticked and fired, and will do almost anything to get rid of the corrosion of your money. You'll demand pain, and you will get it.

The question you have to ask yourself is, what are you going to get for this? I mean, several times in the last generation there have been bail outs and pain, and each time you've said that you are too busy watching American Idol to run things, so let the wealthy ruin them. The next no strings attached bail out will be your last, because after that, you'll be working for people in Dubai and Beijing.

And when monarchies and oligarchies give orders, they expect to have them carried out.

23 comments to Fire the Fed.

  • Petronius

    …this morning. It seems that the pattern for taxpayer bailouts for private fiscal mismanagement was set back in the 1980s with the S&L crisis. Stupid, reckless business decisions made by banks only to be forgiven by the generosity of Foggy Bottom–with no long-term reform materializing.

    The difference now being that it will cost more–much more.

    If we bail out the miscreants again, I suggest we do it and exact a terrible price–absolute oversight by government regulation. If you’re a bank, you don’t get to set executive salaries or buy a box of Girl Scout cookies without regulatory approval. In exchange, you get to survive. Loans must be vetted and strictly conform to Federal guidelines with frequent audits.

    This moral hazard garbage has got to stop. There must be consequences to recklessness.

  • steelhead

    You forgot fascist dictatorships in you final sentence. Bush and Cheney lied and the vast majority of people living in America get f*cked.

  • Mr. Flibble

    just as a point of clarification, isn’t the dollar supply holding steady more or less right now with credit availability declining rapidly? Inflation, as I understand it, is growing money supply and availability of credit. Helicopter Ben can lower rates all he wants, but that only matters in situations when banks are willing to lend…and they ain’t. Lending is hard without capital reserves.

    The printing presses will definitely run in May, when we get our $600 checks! But that wasn’t Ben’s decision.

    But you & Petronius are both right about bailouts. If the government comes running to the rescue, we’re going to have to resign ourselves to the fact that we have a centrally planned economy explicitly designed to reward rich people for taking stupid financial risks. Oversight, regulation, and garnishing of executive wages should be the price for getting bailed out. To hell with privatized profits and socialized risk.

  • Numerian

    Remember that old bromide about the Fed having to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going? Forget it. The Fed sees its job as constantly refilling the punchbowl every time the party goers seem to get tired. Only now they are serving us grain alcohol – it may seem good at first but the hangover is ferocious.

  • Sean-Paul Kelley

    that if you look at Money supply right now and consider the fact that the spigot of the shadow banking system has been shut off, the amount of money the Fed is pouring into the system is huge in comparison to past possible recessions. In essence, the Fed is trying to create as much money as the old line banking system can, PLUS what the shadow banking systems, which is completely shut down now, was producing. Numerian, would that be correct?

    “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • Rojo

    As big a boob as Ben is, he’s really the Hoover to Greenspan’s Coolidge. But there’s plenty of rope for everyone.

  • Numerian

    There has been a sudden jump up in bank deposit balances, presumably from all the repos the Fed has been doing. It doesn’t mean the banks are lending this money out; they are merely arbitraging it by buying long term Treasuries and pocketing what is called short funding profits.

    There is also the TAF liquidity, the new facility that allows for longer term borrowings up to one month. This facility now has $60 billion in loans out to banks. I don’t know how they account for this, but it may be included in the M2 deposits.

    The problem is what used to be called M3, which is the shadow credit system run by Wall Street. These balances have been cut by the huge losses experienced by the big banks, and the growth rate is now considerably less than last year’s 12%. Even though the Fed is trying to accommodate some of this lost credit, it can’t match anywhere near what Wall Street was doing.

    Two other observations. First, you may have noticed this week that Blackstone Group announced it was going to raise money for its private equity buyouts from hedge funds directly, rather than go to Wall Street or to the commercial banks. Apparently these traditional sources have dried up, and Blackstone feels there is enough “liquidity” out there to be tapped directly. JP Morgan earned over $400 million in fees from highly leveraged loan syndications last year, so this will definitely cut into bank earnings. More important, it represents even more distance being created between the shadow banking system and the regulated banking system. The hedge funds are accountable to nobody, regulated by nobody, and with no one to back them up if they get into trouble. To the extent they can create credit and lend money to private equity funds, our financial system is even more at risk. In any other country the central bank would be screaming about this move and insisting the hedge funds be regulated and subject to the same oversight and reserve discipline as banks.

    The second observation relates to the other creators of credit – overseas central banks, specifically China and India. Their growth rates in money supply exceed 15% annually and are not slowing down much. At least in China’s case, these loans come back to the U.S. as financing for our imports from them, but there is plenty of credit being created in the domestic Chinese economy, and a lot of it is wasted on excess capacity in manufacturing, services, hotels, office buildings, etc.

    Whatever liquidity is being created now is going mostly to commodities speculation, and until this changes it is hard to see investors putting money back into paper assets.

  • zot23

    It’s something you can hold in your hand and in a pinch, it can keep your family fed (I’ll leave that to your imagination.) The only way someone can truly make you give it up is if they and friend both have shotguns as well.

    Who knows, it might even help you set the fiscal policy in your 2020 local police-state elections (or thunderdome depending on locality) ;)

  • Mr. Flibble

    You need the 12-gauge for grocery shopping and law enforcement.

    Shall we start a betting pool when the whole Ponzi scheme that is our economy collapses? James Kunstler is predicting that the financials won’t be able to keep up appearances for another month.

    Things are going to suck, so you might want to start buying fruit trees, vegetable seeds, and shotguns.

  • Joaquin

    Its just that the Ponzi scheme collapsed two years ago, kind of like the Titanic took a while to sink after it hit the iceberg.

  • darwin

    Ben is making me so sad….


    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” ~ Charles Darwin

  • jbaspen

    Excellent Missive & comments to boot! The often prescient grizzly bear, James Grant, in the February 22nd Edition of his Interest Rate Observer, quotes one Christoper Wood, a stategist at CLSA, who opined that: The banks are increasingly (via the so-called Term Auction Facility or “TAF”) giving the Fed the garbage collateral nobody else wants to take” (Financial Times, 2/19/08). Grant (and his associate Ian McCulley) raise the issue that, in trying to restore confidence to the interbank lending market, the Fed may be “absorbing on its balance sheet the commercial banks’ mortgage problem”. Grant quipped that “We now downgrade the creditworthiness of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from AAA to mid-grade junk. At that, the Fed gets off light”

    Ultimately, it gets down to whether our myriad foriegn creditors have to keep taking this crap of ours. Do they continue to “need” us as much or more than we need them? Will the Saudi, Russian & Chinese kleptocracies bitch, moan & groan, but when push comes to shove, continue to absorb container-fulls of $100 dollar bills?

  • Mr. Flibble

    is hard to foresee with clarity, but whatever foreign investors do it won’t be enough to save our bacon.

    Very likely we will slowly–locality by locality, family by family–revert increasingly to a subsistence economy as our taken-for-granted social supports and global economy become impractical. Whether that ultimate end is due to hyperinflation, energy and resource depletion, or the collapse of government services and infrastructure is hard to determine yet.

    We should be heeding California’s experience right now if we want to see how the collapse of the US government might transpire, and how it might impact things. I understand there is a growing exodus of people from that state as jobs vanish, and the Governator is set on letting criminals out and closing schools. At some point, the state’s infrastructure (e.g. courts, hospitals, police) will become so distressed and nonresponsive that more people will leave, or they will elect to do without. Now imagine this on a more extensive scale, when more states are unable to pay their bills.

    That is the endgame.

  • justadood

    a means of dealing with this sort of criminal malfeasance that, while I don’t necessarily agree, I think they may be onto something.

    Execution and organ harvest (they might say OH is illegal and not done today, to which I’d call them liars to their face).

    Now if only they had a workable Justice system (remember ‘Red Corner’?).

    -5.75,-4.05
    “We’re all fucked. It helps to remember that.” –George Carlin

  • tjfxh

    Dropping Gulf dollar peg would ease inflation: Greenspan

    Mon Feb 25, 2008 7:54am EST

    By Souhail Karam and Stanley Carvalho

    JEDDAH/ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Monday near-record Gulf Arab inflation would fall “significantly” were the oil producers to drop their dollar pegs, in contradiction to Saudi policy.

    The pegs restrict the Gulf’s ability to fight inflation by forcing them to shadow U.S. monetary policy at a time when the Fed is cutting rates to ward off recession and Gulf economies are surging on a near five-fold jump in oil prices since 2002.

    more

    If that happens, then the game is up for dollar hegemony. If they don’t, then they import unacceptable inflation. It’s just a matter of time, now that the Wizard has just given his blessing.

  • Stirling Newberry

    There are, empirically, three kinds of inflation, all of them recognized by Smith and Hume, though not labelled as such.

    The first kind of inflation is macro-inflation. Macro-inflation is caused by an increase in currency base over supply of denominatable goods and services. In Hume’s time he was noting that the increase in specie, gold and silver, had increased prices in Scotland and England without increasing production. This was, at that time, part of the argument that mercantilism – and it’s obsession with increasing the amount of specie held by the national unit – was only going to be inflationary.

    Macro-inflation is the most clearly recognized kind of inflation, and the one which conservatives would like to blame all inflation on. It is capable of the greatest extremes of inflationary activity, hyper-inflation and deflationary spirals. As a consequence getting macro-inflation wrong is a deadly sin for a central banker.

    The other kind of inflation which is easily labelled is micro-inflation. Micro-inflation comes from using monopoly power, withholding of information or other market anomoly, to increase the price of a good or service without a tendency to equilibrium. This last is important, because usually exercising market pricing power is either going to generate equilibrium, or is a move towards equilibrium from artificially low prices. Land is the natural monopoly that Smith labels, and he goes into price fixing schemes in some depth.

    The third kind, also recognized in Smith, is meso-inflation. Meso-inflation is when incentives become out of alignment between productive and unproductive labor in Smith, but more generally when incentives no longer send the correct signals to allocation of activity in an economy. A simple and obvious example of meso-inflation is a government over or under taxing. Running persistent budget deficits and accumulating national debt, or pouring money into government projects which do not return. Meso-inflation can, therefore, be driven by, or drive, macro- and micro- inflation, and is seen through the creation of micro- and macro- inflationary imbalances.

    What we have been seeing is meso-inflation in the form of devaluation of the US Dollar to fund the war in Iraq and shifting of money from the middle class to the wealthy.

    Meso-inflation can be used to mask inflationary pressures, by reducing the costs of some goods, and increasing the price of others, keeping some arbitrary market basket measure of inflation lower. An example is China’s interior suffering deflation, while it’s coastal region has high inflation. The net result is that China, as a whole, seems to have lower inflation, when in fact it is suffering from deflationary pressures in its large subsistence areas, and high, and now chronic, inflation in its coastal regions.

    In the case of the US what we saw first was spiraling prices of houses
    compared to the rest of the economy, and now the reverse, a housing crash – unprecedented in the post war economic era, which can conveniently be terminated somewhere in the Bush era, because Bush has broken the Post-War American hegemony – with rising prices for resources.

    Central bankers are almost always complicit in meso-inflation, even if they are not making the decisions, per se, that leads to it. Meso-inflation looks like high inflation to some people, who are not producers of its inflationary sectors. If one looks at a dirt poor farmer in Bolivia, then in his world, this is simply an inflationary time. It looks like deflation to other people. Americans, flush with house credit, saw goods such as televisions and computers as being extremely cheap.

    The root of meso-inflation is an imbalance of incentives. At a certain point this imbalance becomes so pervasive that it makes monetary policy useless. If you think about it, monetary policy increases activity, or decreases it – incentives being misaligned means that increasing interest rates will slow the wrong things before it gets at inflationary behavior, decreasing interest rates will encourage the wrong behavior before it increases production. This means that there will be a progressive decoupling of monetary policy from the actual economy, and monetary moves will produce less reduction in inflation, or less increases in real production. We have been seeing this decoupling from monetary policy for nearly 20 years. Which means that meso-inflationary policies have been going on for longer than that.

    All three kinds of inflation are not entirely evil. Some macro-inflation introduces necessary risk to holders of currency. That is it gets them off their butts and investing, lest they lose the buying power they have. Sucking money out of the mattress is a good thing, but once that is accomplished, macro-inflation has done its discounting work. Micro-inflation is often a periodic spur to innovation – when some good or service becomes a roadblock, the ability to increase its “customary rate of profit” without generating more competition, can force people to search for alternatives. Meso-inflation is, likewise, often a normal part of a market economy coming back into balance.

    The key is whether the inflationary pressures are generating equilibrium pressures in return. If macro-inflation is spurring investment sufficient to increase production, then it is good. If micro-inflation is spurring the search for alternative supply, then it is good. If meso-inflation is reshaping the economy to produce a higher pareto optimality, and thus equilibrium with the increased profits being taken, it is good. Beyond this, they are bad.

    The job of most policy makers most of the time is to maintain equilibrium in the broader economy, while promoting it in small sections of the economy where disruptive technologies are entering. Macro-stability is produced by micro-instabilities.

    The underlying charge against late Greenspan and Bernanke is that they have created meso-inflationary pressures which do not tend towards equilibrium, and instead continue to spiral. The US spends on bombs and billionaires, devalues the dollar to pay for this, increasing the prices of resources, which increases the wealth of oilarchies and substitute production, which is met with spending on bombs (to get the resources, specifically oil) and billionaires (to keep assets in national hands), as well as greater protectionism (such as forbidding the Chinese from buying out American companies). This reduces production even more, while increasing demand for oil, which fires the cycle all over again.

    Failure to act towards equilibrium was done to be accomodative to the bombs and billionaires, borrow and squander, policy. Ultimately, a central banker’s job is to make “Say’s Law apply in practice even though it doesn’t apply in theory.” and keep General Equilibrium in place. Greenspan and Bernanke’s failure to swiftly act to equilibrium, but in favor of a false stability, has accomodated a misalignment of incentives. This misalignment of incentives is seen as the housing and energy bubble – because, let’s face it, in a peak-oil/pit carbon world, pumping or scooping every hydrocarbon out of the ground possible is not a sustainable situation – and the consequent reduction in wages and asset accumulation by the middle class, as well as the return to chronic budget deficits.

  • nymole

    SpiegelOnline – [...] Supply and demand cannot explain the high prices,” says Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer & Co., a leading commodities analyst. Like many in his profession, Gheit believes financial investors are driving up prices. He’s reminded of the Internet bubble around the turn of the millennium. According to Gheit, oil is also seeing “excessive speculation” at the moment.

    OPEC arrives at the same conclusion. “The fundamentals are right,” says OPEC President Mohammed al-Hamli. In fact, the cartel has expected excess supply on markets since early February — a result of the American economic crisis.

    This excess supply would normally cause the price per barrel to fall. Instead, dealers have now broken through the magic $100 threshold for the second time in only a few weeks.

    The mood is festive among oil barons, who seem to be unimpressed by global recession fears. Exxon Mobil recently reported its profits for 2007: $40.6 billion, a record for the world’s largest energy company, and in international economic history. A company has never made so much money in a year.

    Enormous amounts of money are currently changing hands in the business of oil contracts. With the American real estate debacle infecting ever larger segments of the capital markets, from stocks to bonds, investors are seeking alternatives worldwide. Oil, with its supposedly straightforward market rules and ever-rising prices, seems to be a perfect tool for spreading risk and maximizing profit. But many investors will have a rude awakening when they realize that an investment in oil, though it may look different, is no less a gamble than other types of investments.


    1.”George Washington did not cross the Delaware for Capitalism,” -Shmuley Boteach.
    2.The Dems haven’t punished the GOP enough, so you’re going to reward the Republicans?

  • Stirling Newberry

    I’ve been saying this for some time… oil’s price is a speculator tax. Americans need to get the rich off their backs.

  • Tina

    Slouching towards Petroeurostan

    Today, Iran’s Oil Minister Nozari concedes that Iran’s share of the global oil trade is still very low. Enter the bourse, which is the solution to eliminate the middlemen. Everyone in the oil business knows that high oil prices are not really due to OPEC – which supplies 40% of the world’s crude – or “al-Qaeda threats”. The main profiteers are middlemen – “traders” to put it nicely, “speculators” to put it bluntly.

  • Stirling Newberry

    parking carry trade money.

    Low interest rates are coming back as oil inflation.

    This is an inflation tax pure and simple.

    Had enough of Ben Bernanke raising your taxes to bail out Bush’s friends?

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