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Arizona Challenges the Fed’s Money Monopoly – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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History shows that, if individuals have the freedom to choose what to use as money, they will likely opt for gold or silver.

Of course, modern politicians and their Keynesian enablers despise the gold or silver standard. This is because linking a currency to a precious metal limits the ability of central banks to finance the growth of the welfare-warfare state via the inflation tax. This forces politicians to finance big government much more with direct means of taxation.

Despite the hostility toward gold from modern politicians, gold played a role in US monetary policy for sixty years after the creation of the Federal Reserve. Then, in 1971, as concerns over the US government’s increasing deficits led many foreign governments to convert their holdings of US dollars to gold, President Nixon closed the gold window, creating America’s first purely fiat currency.

America’s 46-year experiment in fiat currency has gone exactly as followers of the Austrian school predicted: a continuing decline in the dollar’s purchasing power accompanied by a decline in the standard of living of middle- and working-class Americans, a series of Federal Reserve-created booms followed by increasingly severe busts, and an explosive growth in federal-government spending. Federal Reserve policies are also behind much of the increase in income inequality.

Since the 2008 Fed-created economic meltdown, more Americans have become aware of the Federal Reserve’s responsibility for America’s economic problems. This growing anti-Fed sentiment is one of the key factors behind the liberty movement’s growth and represents the most serious challenge to the Fed’s legitimacy in its history. This movement has made “Audit the Fed” into a major national issue that is now closer than ever to being signed into law.

Audit the Fed is not the only focus of the growing anti-Fed movement. For example, this Wednesday the Arizona Senate Finance and Rules Committees will consider legislation (HB 2014) officially defining gold, silver, and other precious metals as legal tender. The bill also exempts transactions in precious metals from state capital-gains taxes, thus ensuring that people are not punished by the taxman for rejecting Federal Reserve notes in favor of gold or silver. Since inflation increases the value of precious metals, these taxes give the federal government one more way to profit from the Federal Reserve’s currency debasement.

HB 2014 is a very important and timely piece of legislation. The Federal Reserve’s failure to reignite the economy with record-low interest rates since the last crash is a sign that we may soon see the dollar’s collapse. It is therefore imperative that the law protect people’s right to use alternatives to what may soon be virtually worthless Federal Reserve notes.

Passage of HB 2014 would also send a message to Congress and the Trump administration that the anti-Fed movement is growing in influence. Thus, passage of this bill will not just strengthen movements in other states to pass similar legislation; it will also help build support for the Audit the Fed bill and legislation repealing federal legal tender laws.

This Wednesday I will be in Arizona to help rally support for HB 2014, speaking on behalf of the bill before the Arizona Senate Finance Committee at 9:00 a.m. I will also be speaking at a rally at noon at the Arizona state capitol. I hope every supporter of sound money in the Phoenix area joins me to show their support for ending the Fed’s money monopoly.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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The Fed Plans for the Next Crisis – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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In her recent address at the Jackson Hole monetary policy conference, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates by the end of the year. Markets reacted favorably to Yellen’s suggested rate increase. This is surprising, as, except for one small increase last year, the Federal Reserve has not followed through on the numerous suggestions of rate increases that Yellen and other Fed officials have made over the past several years.

Much more significant than Yellen’s latest suggestion of a rate increase was her call for the Fed to think outside the box in developing responses to the next financial crisis. One of the outside-the-box ideas suggested by Yellen is increasing the Fed’s ability to intervene in markets by purchasing assets of private companies. Yellen also mentioned that the Fed could modify its inflation target.

Increasing the Federal Reserve’s ability to purchase private assets will negatively impact economic growth and consumers’ well-being. This is because the Fed will use this power to keep failing companies alive, thus preventing the companies’ assets from being used to produce a good or service more highly valued by consumers.

Investors may seek out companies whose assets have been purchased by the Federal Reserve, since it is likely that Congress and federal regulators would treat these companies as “too big to fail.” Federal Reserve ownership of private companies could also strengthen the movement to force businesses to base their decisions on political, rather than economic, considerations.

Yellen’s suggestion of modifying the Fed’s inflation target means that the Fed would increase the inflation tax just when Americans are trying to cope with a major recession or even a depression. The inflation tax is the most insidious of all taxes because it is both hidden and regressive.

The failure of the Federal Reserve’s eight-year spree of money creation via quantitative easing and historically low interest rates to reflate the bubble economy suggests that the fiat currency system may soon be coming to an end. Yellen’s outside-the-box proposals will only hasten that collapse.

The collapse of the fiat system will not only cause a major economic crisis, but also the collapse of the welfare-warfare state. Yet, Congress not only refuses to consider meaningful spending cuts, it will not even pass legislation to audit the Fed.

Passing Audit the Fed would allow the American people to know the full truth about the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy, including the complete details of the Fed’s plans to respond to the next economic crash. An audit will also likely uncover some very interesting details regarding the Federal Reserve’s dealings with foreign central banks.

The large number of Americans embracing authoritarianism — whether of the left or right-wing variety — is a sign of mass discontent with the current system. There is a great danger that, as the economic situation worsens, there will be an increase in violence and growing restrictions on liberty. However, public discontent also presents a great opportunity for those who understand free-market economics to show our fellow citizens that our problems are not caused by immigrants, imports, or the one percent, but by the Federal Reserve.

Politicians will never restore sound money or limited government unless forced to do so by either an economic crisis or a shift in public option. It is up to us who know the truth to make sure the welfare-warfare state and the system of fiat money ends because the people have demanded it, not because a crisis left Congress with no other choice.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Americans Are Going to be Disappointed in Election Outcome – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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It is a sad commentary on the state of political life in the United States that our political conventions have become more like rock music festivals than competitions of ideas. There has been a great deal of bombast, of insults, of name-calling, and of chest-beating at both party conventions, but what is disturbingly absent is any mention of how we got to this crisis and how we can get out. From the current foreign-policy mess to the looming economic collapse, all we hear is both party candidates saying they will fix it, no problem.

In her convention speech Hillary Clinton promised that she would “fight terrorism” and defeat ISIS by doing more of what we have been doing all along: bombing. In fact we have dropped more than 50,000 bombs on ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the past two years and all she can say is that she will drop more. How many more bombs will defeat ISIS? How many more years will she keep us in our longest war, Afghanistan? She doesn’t say.

In fact, the New York Times – certainly not hostile to the Clintons – wrote that it was almost impossible to fact-check Hillary’s speech because, “she delivered a speech that was remarkably without hard facts.”

Clinton’s top foreign policy advisor said just a day after her convention speech that her big plan for Syria was to go back to square one and concentrate on overthrowing its secular president. How many more thousands more will die if she gets her way? And won’t she eventually be forced to launch a massive US ground invasion that will also kill more Americans?

Clinton does not understand that a policy of endless interventionism has brought us to our knees and made us far weaker. Does she really expect us to be the policemen of the world with $20 trillion in debt?

Likewise, Republican candidate Donald Trump misses the point. He promises to bring back jobs to America without any understanding of the policies that led to their departure in the first place. Yes, he is correct that the middle class is in worse shape than when Obama took office, but not once did he mention how it happened: the destructive policies of the Federal Reserve; the financing of our warfare/welfare state through the printing of phony money; distorted interest rates that encourage consumption and discourage saving and investment.

Trump tweeted this week that home ownership is at its lowest rate in 51 years. He promised that if elected he will bring back “the American dream.” He seems to have no idea that home ownership is so low because the Fed-created housing bubble exploded in 2007-2008, forcing millions of Americans who did not have the means to actually purchase a home to lose their homes. Not a word about the Fed from Trump.

How are these candidates going to fix the problems we face in America if they have absolutely no idea what caused the problems? No matter who is elected, Americans are going to be very disappointed in the outcome. The warfare/welfare state is going to proceed until we are bankrupt. There is hope, however. It is up to us to focus on the issues, to focus on educating ourselves and others, and to demand that politicians listen.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Central Banks Should Stop Paying Interest on Reserves – Article by Brendan Brown

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Categories: Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Brendan Brown
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In 2008, the Federal Reserve began paying interest on reserve balances held on deposit at the Fed. It took more than seven decades from the US leaving the gold standard — in 1933 — for the fiat regime to do this and thus revoke a cardinal element of the old gold-based monetary system: the non-payment of any interest on base money.

The academic catalyst to this change came from Milton Friedman’s essay “The Optimum Quantity of Money” where he argued that the opportunity cost of paper money (any foregoing of interest compared to on alternative money-like instruments such as savings deposits) should be equal to its virtually-zero marginal cost of production. Opportunity cost could indeed be brought down to zero if base money (bank reserves, currency) in large part paid interest at the market rate. Under the gold standard, the opportunity cost of holding base money largely in metallic form (gold coin) was indeed typically significant. All forms of base money paid no interest. And the stream of interest income foregone in terms of present value was equal in principle to the marginal cost of gold production (this was equal to the gold price).

Interest on Reserves are Important to Controlling Markets and Imposing Negative Rates
Friedman, however, did not identify the catch-22 of his proposal. If the officials of the fiat money regime indeed take steps to close the gap between the marginal production cost and opportunity cost of base money, with both at zero, then there can be no market mechanism free of official intervention and manipulation for determining interest rates.

That is what we are now finding out in the few years since central banks in the US, Europe, and Japan started paying interest on reserves. (The ECB was authorized to do this since its launch in 1999, while the Fed and BoJ began following the 2008 financial crisis.) Central banks can now bind the invisible hand operating in the interest rate market to an extent almost unprecedented in peacetime. In some cases, central banks have even deployed a negative interest rate “tool” which would have been impossible under the prior status quo where base money paid no interest.

How We Got Here
The signing into law of the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act in 2006 authorized the Federal Reserve to begin paying interest on reserves held by depository institutions beginning October 1, 2011. On the insistence of then Fed Chief Bernanke, that date was brought forward to October 1, 2008 by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. He was in the process of dispensing huge loans to troubled financial institutions but wanted nonetheless to keep interest rates at a positive level (one purpose here was to protect the money market fund industry).

Accordingly, the Federal Reserve Board amended its regulation D so that the interest rate paid on required reserves and on excess reserves would be at levels tied (according to distinct formulas at the start) to market rates. An official communiqué explained that the new procedure would eliminate the opportunity cost of holding required reserves (and thereby “deregulate”) and help to establish a lower limit for the Federal Funds rate, becoming thereby a useful tool of monetary policy.

This was useful indeed from the viewpoint of rate manipulators: by setting the rate on excess reserves the Fed could now determine the path of short-term interest rates and strongly influence longer term rates regardless of how the supply of monetary base was growing relative to trend demand. By contrast, under the gold standard and the subsequent first seven decades of the fiat money regime, interest rates in the money market were determined by forces which brought demand for base money into balance with the path of supply as set by gold mining conditions or by central bank policy decision respectively. A rise in rates meant that the public and the banks would economize on their direct or indirect holdings of base money and conversely.

Back Before the Fed Paid Interest on Reserves
Yes, under the fiat money system the central bank could effectively peg a short-term rate and supply whatever amount of base money was needed to underwrite that — but the consequential growth of supply in base money was a variable which got wide attention and remained an ostensible policy concern. Right up until the Greenspan era, the FOMC implemented policy decisions by directing the New York Fed money desk to increase or reduce the pace of reserve growth and changes in the Fed funds rate occurred ostensibly to accomplish that purpose. This old method of determining money market interest rates under a fiat regime — in which banks’ need for reserves was minute given deposit insurance, a generous lender of last resort, and too-big-to-fail — depended on the banking industry enduring what was essentially a tax on its deposit business, which was then magnified by fairly high legal reserve requirements. Thus, it is not surprising that the original impetus to paying interest on reserves, whether in the US or Europe, came from the banking lobby. There was no such burden under the gold standard even though the yellow metal earned no interest. Banks in honoring their pledge to deposit clients that their funds were convertible into gold had to visibly hold large amounts of the metal in their vaults or at hand in a reserve center. Actual and potential demand for monetary base by the public is more limited under a fiat money regime than under the gold standard as bank notes are hardly such a distinct asset as gold coin from other financial instruments.

More Problems with Friedmanite “Solutions”
Friedman, when he advocated eliminating the opportunity cost of base money under a fiat regime, hypothesized that this could occur under a long-run declining trend of prices rather than by the payment of interest. The real rate of return on base money could then be in line with the equilibrium real interest rate. This proposal for perpetually declining prices would also have been problematic, though. The interest rate would fluctuate, and in boom times be well above the rate of price decline. In any case, the rate of price decline would surely vary (sometimes into positive territory) in a well-functioning economy even when the long-run trend was constant (downward). The equilibrium real interest rate would be below the rate of price decline sometimes (for example, during business downturns), meaning that market rates even at zero would be too high. That situation did not occur often under the gold standard where prices were expected to be on a flat trend from a very long-run perspective and move pro-cyclically (falling to a low-point in the recession from which they were expected to rise in the subsequent business expansion, meaning that real interest rates would then be negative).

What Can Be Done?
So what is to be done to escape the curse? A starting point in the US would be for Congress to ban the payment of interest on bank reserves. And the US should use its financial power with respect to the IMF to argue that Japan and Europe act similarly within a spirit of G-7 coordination such as to combat monetary instability. We have seen in recent years how rate manipulation and negative rates are made possible by the payment of interest on reserves, and are potent weapons of currency warfare. Yes, the ban in the immediate would force the Federal Reserve to slim down its balance sheet so that supply and demand for base money would balance at a low positive level of interest rates. The Fed might have to swap its holdings of long-maturity debt for T-bills at the Treasury window so as to avoid any dislocation of the long-term interest rate market in consequence. That, not the Yellen-Fischer “rate lift off day and beyond,” is the road back to monetary normalcy.

Brendan Brown is an associated scholar of the Mises Institute and is author of Euro Crash: How Asset Price Inflation Destroys the Wealth of Nations and The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve: Manifesto for a Second Monetarist Revolution. See Brendan Brown’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Why Negative Interest Rates Will Fail – Article by Frank Hollenbeck

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The New Renaissance HatFrank Hollenbeck
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It is now just a matter of time before the US central bank follows the central banks of Japan, the EU, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland in setting negative rates on reserve deposits.

The goal of such rates is to force banks to lend their excess reserves. The assumption is that such lending will boost aggregate demand and help struggling economies recover. Using the same central bank logic as in 2008, the solution to a debt problem is to add on more debt. Yet, there is an old adage: you can bring a horse to water but you cannot make him drink! With the world economy sinking into recession, few banks have credit-worthy customers and many banks are having difficulties collecting on existing loans.

Italy’s non-performing loans have gone from about 5 percent in 2010 to over 15 percent today. The shale oil bust has left many US banks with over a trillion dollars of highly risky energy loans on their books. The very low interest rate environment in Japan and the EU has done little to spur demand in an environment full of malinvestments and growing government constraints.

Central bank policies have also driven government bond yields into negative territory. Nearly $7 trillion of government bonds are currently trading at negative rates.

But, economic theory presupposes that negative rates are an impossibility. After all, why would you buy a one-year treasury bill for $1,005 that will get you $1,000 in a year, when you can stuff your mattress with the $1,005 and still have $1,005 in a year? Some would say that storing money is costly and risky, but that is also true for most assets.

The reason is actually quite simple and shows how distortive monetary policy has become worldwide: It makes sense to purchase a bill for $1,005 if you intend to sell it before it matures to the central bank for more than $1,005. In today’s world, the central bank is often ultimately expected to purchase the bill and lose money on it. It’s just another type of debt monetization.

(And it is, by the way, something the Germans emphatically wanted to avoid when the ECB was initially created.)

We Just Need to Print More Money!
The real problem is the way monetary policy is taught in almost every undergraduate and graduate program in the world. Pick up any macroeconomics textbook and it will explain how interest rates are determined by the demand and supply of liquidity. The economy is treated as a car, and interest rates are viewed as the gas petal. When reality does not match up with the model, today’s economist, instead of questioning the model and theory, assumes that more of the same will ultimately force reality into the model.

The problem arises from a fundamental misunderstanding about the role of interest rates. Mises in 1912 had this to say about our current enlightened view on money:

[This view of money] regards interest as a compensation of the temporary relinquishing of money in the broader sense — a view, indeed, of unsurpassable naiveté. Scientific critics have been perfectly justified in treating it with contempt; it is scarcely worth even cursory mention. But it is impossible to refrain from pointing out that these very views on the nature of interest holds an important place in popular opinion, and that they are continually being propounded afresh and recommended as a basis for measures of banking policy.

In fact, interest rates reflect the ratio of the value assigned to current consumption relative to the value assigned to future consumption. That is, money isn’t just some commodity that can solve our problems if we just create more of it. Money serves a key function of coordinating output with demand across time.

So, the more you interfere with interest rates, the more you create a misalignment between demand and supply across time, and the greater will be the adjustment to realign output with demand to return the economy to sustainable economic growth with rising standards of living (see here and here). Negative rates will only ensure an ever greater misalignment between output and demand.

As with Japan, Western economies that pursue a long-term policy of low or negative interest rates can expect decades of low growth unless these “unorthodox” monetary policies are rapidly abandoned. Recessions are not a problem of insufficient demand. They are a problem of supply being misaligned with demand.

The War on Cash
Meanwhile, a goal of some of the attendees at Davos and others has been to push the world toward a cashless society since an increase in cash holdings would limit the effectiveness of negative rates. They know that if they eliminate cash, central banks will have greater control over the money supply and the ability to guide the economy toward their macroeconomic goals.

As long as there is physical cash, people will hold cash in times of uncertainty. It is a wise alternative when all other options seem unproductive or irrational — and keeping cash in a bank at a time of negative rates is, all things being equal, irrational. Central banks, not surprisingly, would therefore like to take away the ability to hold cash outside the banking system. Worst of all, people who hold cash outside the system might be saving it instead of spending it. Naturally, from the Keynesian perspective, this must be stopped.

This is just the latest frontier in the radical monetary policy we’ve been increasingly witnessing since the 2008 financial crisis. The best monetary policy, however, is no monetary policy at all, and central bankers should take an extended holiday so that the world economy can finally heal itself.

Frank Hollenbeck teaches finance and economics at the International University of Geneva. He has previously held positions as a Senior Economist at the State Department, Chief Economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and as an Associate Director of a Swiss private bank.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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The Fed Passes the Buck: Blame Oil and China – Article by C. Jay Engel

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The New Renaissance HatC. Jay Engel
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There are a handful of themes out there on recent market action that are either totally wrong or otherwise highly misleading. For instance, regarding the recent calamity in the capital markets, one especially apparent dichotomy has presented itself as offering two choices as to what, exactly, is causing the painful turbulence.

There are some who, in a complete echo of the news headlines, are quick to point the finger at both oil and China. And yet there are others who point the finger at the Fed for “raising rates too early.” Along with the second is the observation that “inflation is totally MIA” and therefore it was ludicrous that the Fed felt the need to “raise interest rates.” Both of these tend to express anguish over the “strong dollar.”

Both of these miss the entire point, and the cause of the current trouble. For one thing, it is ridiculous to blame oil for the falling markets when the falling oil is the very thing that needs to be explained. It is wholly unsatisfactory to explain something by describing it. It works well for headlines, and for shifting the blame away from where it really belongs, but one must learn to look deeper. One cannot expect to impress anyone by explaining that the plane is crashing to the ground because it is no longer flying. What is the cause of oil’s magnificent plummet toward the bottom? That is the true question.

Moreover, the problem with the “China thesis” is that it doesn’t explain anything either. It merely observes a correlation in the markets and therefore makes it highly convenient to put the blame on “the other guys.” Let me not be misunderstood here: the Chinese and US economies are certainly influenced by each other, especially in our age of fluctuating fiat currencies. But ultimately, both China and the US — indeed the entire world — are being dragged down by past actions of their respective central banks and more specifically the illusion of prosperity via monetary and credit expansion.

Which leads to the second theme: putting the blame on the Fed for “raising rates” too early. That is, there are a good many who argue that if the Fed had never announced in December that it was going to seek minuscule increases in the Federal Funds rate, none of the recent market drops would have happened. They will say things like “inflation was never a threat, so the Fed was irresponsible to raise rates.”

Money-Supply Inflation vs. Price “Inflation”
This is confused. First, it must be constantly emphasized that the meaning of inflation, contrary to the mainstream’s application of it, is more appropriately defined an increase in the money supply, not “rising prices.” The reason why the Fed and proponents of central banking prefer the “rising prices” definition is because it obscures the chief source of our present economic condition. It rips the blame away from the Fed and toward all kinds of other “market forces” and therefore encourages the central bank to swoop in to the rescue rather than be the object of severe suspicion. Indeed, as Mises observed (page 420 of Human Action):

What many people today call inflation or deflation is no longer the great increase or decrease in the supply of money, but its inexorable consequences, the general tendency toward a rise or a fall in commodity prices and wage rates. This innovation is by no means harmless. It plays an important role in fomenting the popular tendencies toward inflationism.

First of all there is no longer any term available to signify what inflation used to signify. It is impossible to fight a policy which you cannot name. …

The second mischief is that those engaged in futile and hopeless attempts to fight the inevitable consequences of inflation — the rise in prices — are disguising their endeavors as a fight against inflation. While merely fighting symptoms, they pretend to fight the root causes of the evil. Because they do not comprehend the causal relation between the increase in the quantity of money on the one hand and the rise in prices on the other, they practicalIy make things worse.

Rising prices can be a result of inflation, but it is not itself inflation. So then, inflation was actually very high in the last decade due to the Fed’s QE and other monetary policy schemes. Second, it should never be ignored that “rising prices” can easily be found in the capital markets themselves. It doesn’t take an investment guru to observe the staggering levels to which the various market indexes have reached. Digging only a little bit farther into the surface reveals the absurd prices for the so-called highest valued stock such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and so on.

Where All That Money Went
More importantly, however, is the fact that much of the newly created money has not even come close to creating “widespread [consumer price] inflation” due to the actual structure of the current, post-crises banking regime. In fact, Jeffrey Snider, among others, have argued that it is literally impossible for “price inflation” to take place as a direct result of QE due to the way that money currently enters the system as reserves. “Price inflation” would need to come from the actions of individual banks themselves who are at present cautious about their consumer lending practices. Therefore the Fed is not creating “price inflation,” but something far worse: capital misallocation.

The point here is simply that those who want the interest rates to be continually suppressed so that economic activity will be encouraged, don’t even realize that this is literally the cause of bubble creations, not productive economic activity.

It used to be, under the pre-crises fractional-reserve model, that there would be loads of malinvestment as a result of banks creating new loans (new economic activity would take place, and then collapse back down). But now, money is created, not by commercial banks, but mostly by the Fed itself. Which means that, in the phraseology of David Stockman, the new money is simply sloshing around the canyons of Wall Street and pushing up equity and bond prices, rather than reaching the “real economy.”

The Bubble Only Prolongs the Problem
Thus, contrary to those blaming the Fed for causing stocks to fall by “raising rates” (which Joe Salerno reflects on here) we want to stress the fact that, in raising rates, the most that the Fed could do is unravel previously made mistakes. In other words, there is nothing praiseworthy in the first place about artificially propped up stock market levels. We have no interest in lauding the longevity of the bubble, because the bubble is the enemy of the healthy economy. The collapsing equity markets reveal where bubbles were formed and that our alleged prosperity is an illusion. And this is precisely what former Dallas Fed Chairman Richard Fisher stated in a conversation on CNBC last week when he confessed: “We frontloaded a tremendous market rally to create a wealth effect.”

And thus, the money expansion must inevitably cycle back down. Fisher himself admits: “… and an uncomfortable digestive period is likely now.” What was inflated up to the top, must deflate down to the floor. That is the only way for an economy to recover: bad credit needs to be liquidated. Unfortunately, it is painful indeed.

That is the true cause of the recent calamity. The dollar is “strengthening” by virtue of our credit system cracking at the seams. In other words, the so-called “strong dollar,” is merely one side of the pendulum swing of a volatile collapsing banking system. It shouldn’t be assumed that the dollar is becoming more sound; it is not. But if we might ever again have a sound currency, we first have to face the music.

And thus oil too, after years of being elevated up toward the heavens via the Fed’s monetary shenanigans, is experiencing its own inevitable bust. The illusion is being exposed.

Unfortunately, the Fed is a wild card, so we stay tuned to whether it will let the markets recover, or continue the perpetual cycle of money creation. My own advice for the Fed is neither to “raise rates” nor to lower them. But rather, to let go and let the market correct itself. For we have a lot of correction ahead of us.

C. Jay Engel is an investment advisor at The Sullivan Group, an independent, Austrian-School oriented, wealth management firm in northern California. He is especially interested in wealth preservation in lieu of our era of rogue Central Banking. He is an avid reader of the Austro-libertarian literature and a dedicated proponent of private property and sound money. Feel free to email C. Jay, visit his blog, and follow him on Twitter.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Does the Bell Toll for the Fed? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
November 9, 2015
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Last week Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen hinted that the Federal Reserve Board will increase interest rates at the board’s December meeting. The positive jobs report that was released following Yellen’s remarks caused many observers to say that the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase in almost a decade is practically inevitable.

However, there are several reasons to doubt that the Fed will increase rates anytime in the near future. One reason is that the official unemployment rate understates unemployment by ignoring the over 94 million Americans who have either withdrawn from the labor force or settled for part-time work. Presumably the Federal Reserve Board has access to the real unemployment numbers and is thus aware that the economy is actually far from full employment.

The decline in the stock market following Friday’s jobs report was attributed to many investors’ fears over the impact of the predicted interest rate increase. Wall Street’s jitters about the effects of a rate increase is another reason to doubt that the Fed will soon increase rates. After all, according to former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar, protecting Wall Street was the main goal of “quantitative easing,” so why would the Fed now risk a Christmastime downturn in the stock markets?

Donald Trump made headlines last week by accusing Janet Yellen of keeping interest rates low because she does not want to risk another economic downturn in President Obama’s last year in office. I have many disagreements with Mr. Trump, but I do agree with him that the Federal Reserve’s polices may be influenced by partisan politics.

Janet Yellen would hardly be the first Fed chair to allow politics to influence decision-making. Almost all Fed chairs have felt pressure to “adjust” monetary policy to suit the incumbent administration, and almost all have bowed to the pressure. Economists refer to the Fed’s propensity to tailor monetary policy to suit the needs of incumbent presidents as the “political” business cycle.

Presidents of both parties, and all ideologies, have interfered with the Federal Reserve’s conduct of monetary policy. President Dwight D. Eisenhower actually threatened to force the Fed chair to resign if he did not give in to Ike’s demands for easy money, while then-Federal Reserve Chair Arthur Burns was taped joking about Fed independence with President Richard Nixon.

The failure of the Fed’s policies of massive money creation, corporate bailouts, and quantitative easing to produce economic growth is a sign that the fiat money system’s day of reckoning is near. The only way to prevent the monetary system’s inevitable crash from causing a major economic crisis is the restoration of a free-market monetary policy.

One positive step Congress may take this year is passing the Audit the Fed bill. Fortunately, Senator Rand Paul is using Senate rules to force the Senate to hold a roll-call vote on Audit the Fed. The vote is expected to take place in the next two-to-three weeks. If Audit the Fed passes, the American people can finally learn the full truth about the Fed’s operations. If it fails, the American people will at least know which senators side with them and which ones side with the Federal Reserve.

Allowing a secretive central bank to control monetary policy has resulted in an ever-expanding government, growing income inequality, a series of ever-worsening economic crises, and a steady erosion of the dollar’s purchasing power. Unless this system is changed, America, and the world, will soon experience a major economic crisis. It is time to finally audit, then end, the Fed.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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The Fed Desperately Tries to Maintain the Status Quo – Article by Ronald-Peter Stöferle

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The New Renaissance HatRonald-Peter Stöferle
November 5, 2015
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During the press conferences of recent FOMC meetings, millions of well-educated investment professionals have been sitting in front of their screens, chewing their fingernails, listening as if spellbound to what Janet Yellen has to tell them. Will she finally raise the federal funds rate that has been zero bound for over six years?

Obviously, each decision is accompanied by nervousness on the markets. Investors are fixated by a fidgety curiosity ahead of each Fed decision and never fail to meticulously observe Janet Yellen and the FOMC, and engage in monetary ornithology on doves (growth- and employment-oriented FOMC members) and hawks (inflation-oriented FOMC members).

Fed watchers also hope for some enlightening information from Ben Bernanke. According to Reuters, some market participants paid some $250,000 just to join one of several dinners, where the ex-chairman spilled the beans. Apparently, he does not expect the federal funds rate to return to its long-term average of about 4 percent during his lifetime.

In a conversation with Jim Rickards, Bernanke stated that a rate hike would only be possible in an environment in which “the U.S. economy is growing strongly enough to bear the costs of higher rates.” Moreover, a rate increase would have to be clearly communicated and anticipated by the markets — not to protect individual investors from losses, Bernanke assures us, but rather to prevent jeopardizing the stability of the “system as a whole.”

It is axiomatic that zero-interest-rate-policy (ZIRP) cannot be a permanent fixture. Indeed, Janet Yellen has been going on about increasing rates for almost two years now. But, how much more lead time will it require to “prepare” the markets? In both September and October the FOMC chickened out, even though we are not talking about hiking the rate back to “monetary normalcy” in one blow. The decision on the table is whether or not to increase the rate by a trifling quarter point!

The Fed’s quandary can be understood a little better by examining what “monetary normalcy,” or a “normal interest rate,” is supposed to be. Or, even more fundamentally: what is an interest rate?

We “Austrians” understand an interest rate as an expression of market participants’ time preference. The underlying assumption is that people are inclined to consume a certain product sooner rather than later. Hence, if savers restrict their current consumption and provide the resources for investment instead, they do so only on condition that they will be compensated by increased opportunities for consumption in the future. In free markets, the interest rate can be regarded as a measure of the compensation payment, where people are willing to trade present goods for future goods. Such an interest rate is commonly referred to as the “natural interest rate.” Consequently, the FOMC bureaucrats would ideally set as a goal a “normal interest rate” that equals the “natural” one.This, however, remains unlikely.

Six Years of “Unconventional” Monetary Policy
ZIRP was introduced six years ago in response to the financial crisis, and three QE programs have been conducted. This so-called “unconventional monetary policy” is supposed to be abandoned as soon as the economy has gathered pace. Despite the tremendous magnitude of these market interventions, the momentum in the US economy is rather lame. Weak Q1 data, which probably resulted from a weak trade balance due to a 15 percent rise of the US dollar, shocked even the most pessimistic of analysts; the OECD and the IMF have revised down their 2015 growth estimates. A long-lasting, self-sustaining growth is out of the question. This confirms the assumption that ZIRP fuels everything under the sun — see “The Unseen Consequences of Zero-Interest-Rate Policy” — except long-term productive investment.And what about unemployment and inflation that are key elements of the Fed’s mandate? The conventional unemployment rate (U3) has returned to its long-run normal level, so the view prevails that things are developing well. However, those figures conceal a workforce participation rate that has fallen by more than 3 percent since 2008, indicating that some 2.5 million Americans are currently no longer actively looking for a new job. However, should the economic situation improve, they would likely rejoin the labor force. Furthermore, the proportion of those only working part-time due to a lack of full-time positions is much higher now than before the crisis. “True” unemployment currently stands rather at about 7.25 percent.

A Weak Economy and Weak Inflation
With regard to inflation, the Fed’s target is 2 percent, as measured by growth of the PCE-index. This aims to buffer the fiat money system against the threat of price deflation. In a deflationary environment, it is believed, the debt-servicing capacity of market participants (e.g., governments, private enterprises, financial institutions, and private households) would come under intense pressure and likely trigger a chain reaction in which loans collapse and the monetary system implodes.

In many countries, and among them the US, inflation is remarkably low — partly due to transitory effects of lower energy and import prices — while low interest rates have merely weaved their way to asset price inflation so far. But, as price reactions to monetary policy maneuvers may occur with a lag of a few years, we should expect that sooner or later inflation will also spill over to normal markets.

As a response to anything short of massive improvement of economic and employment data, a rate hike is scarcely likely, and inflation in the short-term is also unlikely. Moreover, the current composition of the FOMC — which is extremely dovish — implies inflation-sensitive voices are relatively underrepresented. This gives rise to the suspicion that rate hikes are not very likely at all in the scenario in the short-term.

What Will the Fed Do If There’s Real Economic Trouble?
One is concerned about economic development, which has a shaky foundation and headwinds from other parts of the world; it appears that growth has cooled down substantially in the BRICS countries. Meanwhile, China might be on the brink of a severe recession. (Indeed, China was possibly the most decisive factor to nudge the Fed away from raising rates in September and October.) This implies that world-wide interest rates will remain at very low levels and a significant rate hike in the US would represent a sharp deviation in this environment, bringing with it massive competitive disadvantages.

The markets are noticeably pricing out a significant rate hike. The production structure has long since adapted to ZIRP and “short-term gambling, punting on momentum-driven moves, on levered buybacks” are further lifting the opportunity costs of abandoning it. In order to try to rescue its credibility, the Fed may decide to try some timid, quarter-point increases.

But what will they do if markets really crash? Indeed, they are terrified of the avalanche that they might trigger. If there are any symptoms that portend calamity, the Fed will inevitably return to ZIRP, launch a QE4, or might even introduce negative interest rates. Hence, there does not seem to be a considerable degree of latitude such that a return to conventional monetary policy could seriously be expected.

“The Fed is raising rates!” — This has become a running gag.

Ronald-Peter Stöferle is a Chartered Market Technician (CMT) and a Certified Financial Technician (CFTe). During his studies in business administration and finance at the Vienna University of Economics and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he worked for Raiffeisen Zentralbank (RZB) in the field of Fixed Income/Credit Investments. In 2006 he began writing reports on gold. His six benchmark reports called “In GOLD we TRUST” drew international coverage on CNBC, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and the Financial Times. He was awarded “2nd most accurate gold analyst” by Bloomberg in 2011.

This article was originally published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided full credit is given.

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The Fed Can’t Raise Rates, But Must Pretend It Will – Article by Thorsten Polleit

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The New Renaissance HatThorsten Polleit
October 26, 2015
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Waiting for Godot is a play written by the Irish novelist Samuel B. Beckett in the late 1940s in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, keep waiting endlessly and in vain for the coming of someone named Godot. The storyline bears some resemblance to the Federal Reserve’s talk about raising interest rates.

Since spring 2013, the Fed has been playing with the idea of raising rates, which it had suppressed to basically zero percent in December 2008. So far, however, it has not taken any action. Upon closer inspection, the reason is obvious. With its policy of extremely low interest rates, the Fed is fueling an artificial economic expansion and inflating asset prices.

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent

Selected US Interest Rates in Percent

Raising short-term rates would be like taking away the punch bowl just as the party gets going. As rates rise, the economy’s production and employment structure couldn’t be upheld. Neither could inflated bond, equity, and housing prices. If the economy slows down, let alone falls back into recession, the Fed’s fiat money pipe dream would run into serious trouble.

This is the reason why the Fed would like to keep rates at the current suppressed levels. A delicate obstacle to such a policy remains, though: If savers and investors expect that interest rates will remain at rock bottom forever, they would presumably turn their backs on the credit market. The ensuing decline in the supply of credit would spell trouble for the fiat money system.

To prevent this from happening, the Fed must achieve two things. First, it needs to uphold the expectation in financial markets that current low interest rates will be increased again at some point in the future. If savers and investors buy this story, they will hold onto their bank deposits, money market funds, bonds, and other fixed income products despite minuscule yields.

Second, the Fed must succeed in continuing to postpone rate hikes into the future without breaking peoples’ expectation that rates will rise at some point. It has to send out the message that rates will be increased at, say, the forthcoming FOMC meeting. But, as the meeting approaches, the Fed would have to repeat its trickery, pushing the possible date for a rate hike still further out.

If the Fed gets away with this “Waiting for Godot” strategy, savings will keep flowing into credit markets. Borrowers can refinance their maturing debt with new loans and also increase total borrowing at suppressed interest rates. The economy’s debt load can continue to build up, with the day of reckoning being postponed for yet again.

However, there is the famous saying: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” What if savers and investors eventually become aware that the Fed will not bring interest rates back to “normal” but keep them at basically zero, or even push them into negative territory?

If a rush for the credit market exit would set in, it would be upon the Fed to fill debtors’ funding gap in order to prevent the fiat system from collapsing. The central bank would have to monetize outstanding and newly originated debt on a grand scale, sending downward the purchasing power of the US dollar — and with it many other fiat currencies around the world.

The “Waiting for Godot” strategy does not rule out that the Fed might, at some stage, nudge upward short-term borrowing costs. However, any rate action should be minor and rather short-lived (like they were in Japan), and it wouldn’t bring interest rates back to “normal.” The underlying logic of the fiat money system simply wouldn’t admit it.

Selected Japanese Interest Rates in Percent

Selected Japanese Interest Rates in Percent

The Fed — and basically all central banks around the world — are unlikely to accept deflation clearing out the debt, which would topple the economic and political structures built upon it. Fending off an approaching recession-depression with more credit-created fiat money and extremely low, perhaps even negative, interest rates is what one can expect them to do.

Murray N. Rothbard put it succinctly: “We can look forward … not precisely to a 1929-type depression, but to an inflationary depression of massive proportions.”

Dr. Thorsten Polleit is the Chief Economist of Degussa (www.degussa-goldhandel.de) and Honorary Professor at the University of Bayreuth. He is the winner of the O.P. Alford III Prize in Political Economy and has been published in the Austrian Journal of Economics. His personal website is www.thorsten-polleit.com.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Keeping the Bubble-Boom Going – Article by Thorsten Polleit

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The New Renaissance HatThorsten Polleit
August 19, 2015

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The US Federal Reserve is playing with the idea of raising interest rates, possibly as early as September this year. After a six-year period of virtually zero interest rates, a ramping up of borrowing costs will certainly have tremendous consequences. It will be like taking away the punch bowl on which all the party fun rests.

Low Central Bank Rates have been Fueling Asset Price Inflation

The current situation has, of course, a history to it. Around the middle of the 1990s, the Fed’s easy monetary policy — that of Chairman Alan Greenspan — ushered in the “New Economy” boom. Generous credit and money expansion resulted in a pumping up of asset prices, in particular stock prices and their valuations.

US Federal Funds Rate in Percent and the S&P 500 Stock Market Index

A Brief History of Low Interest Rates

When this boom-bubble burst, the Fed slashed rates from 6.5 percent in January 2001 to 1 percent in June 2003. It held borrowing costs at this level until June 2004. This easy Fed policy not only halted the slowdown in bank credit and money expansion, it sowed the seeds for an unprecedented credit boom which took off as early as the middle of 2002.

When the Fed had put on the brakes by having pushed rates back up to 5.25 percent in June 2006, the credit boom was pretty much doomed. The ensuing bust grew into the most severe financial and economic meltdown seen since the late 1920s and early 1930s. It affected not only in the US, but the world economy on a grand scale.

Thanks to Austrian-school insights, we can know the real source of all this trouble. The root cause is central banks’ producing fake money out of thin air. This induces, and necessarily so, a recurrence of boom and bust, bringing great misery for many people and businesses and eventually ruining the monetary and economic system.

Central banks — in cooperation with commercial banks — create additional money through credit expansion, thereby artificially lowering the market interest rates to below the level that would prevail if there was no credit and money expansion “out of thin air.”

Such a boom will end in a bust if and when credit and money expansion dries up and interest rates go up. In For A New Liberty (1973), Murray N. Rothbard put this insight succinctly:

Like the repeated doping of a horse, the boom is kept on its way and ahead of its inevitable comeuppance by repeated and accelerating doses of the stimulant of bank credit. It is only when bank credit expansion must finally stop or sharply slow down, either because the banks are getting shaky or because the public is getting restive at the continuing inflation, that retribution finally catches up with the boom. As soon as credit expansion stops, the piper must be paid, and the inevitable readjustments must liquidate the unsound over-investments of the boom and redirect the economy more toward consumer goods production. And, of course, the longer the boom is kept going, the greater the malinvestments that must be liquidated, and the more harrowing the readjustments that must be made.

To keep the credit-induced boom going, more credit and more money, provided at ever lower interest rates, are required. Somehow central bankers around the world seem to know this economic insight, as their policies have been desperately trying to encourage additional bank lending and money creation.

Why Raise Rates Now?

Why, then, do the decision makers at the Fed want to increase rates? Perhaps some think that a policy of de facto zero rates is no longer warranted, as the US economy is showing signs of returning to positive and sustainable growth, which the official statistics seem to suggest.

Others might fear that credit market investors will jump ship once they convince themselves that US interest rates will stay at rock bottom forever. Such an expectation could deal a heavy, if not deadly, blow to credit markets, making the unbacked paper money system come crashing down.

In any case, if Fed members follow up their words with deeds, they might soon learn that the ghosts they have been calling will indeed appear — and possibly won’t go away. For instance, higher US rates will suck in capital from around the word, pulling the rug out from under many emerging and developed markets.

What is more, credit and liquidity conditions around the world will tighten, giving credit-hungry governments, corporate banks, and consumers a painful awakening after having been surfing the wave of easy credit for quite some time.

China, which devalued the renminbi exchange rate against the US dollar by a total of 3.5 percent on August 11 and 12, seems to have sent the message that it doesn’t want to follow the Fed’s policy — and has by its devaluation made the Fed’s hiking plan appear as an extravagant undertaking.

A normalization of interest rates, after years of excessively low interest rates, is not possible without a likely crash in production and employment. If the Fed goes ahead with its plan to raise rates, times will get tough in the world’s economic and financial system.

To be on the safe side: It would be the right thing to do. The sooner the artificial boom comes to an end, the sooner the recession-depression sets in, which is the inevitable process of adjusting the economy and allowing an economically sound recovery to begin.

Dr. Thorsten Polleit is the Chief Economist of Degussa (www.degussa-goldhandel.de) and Honorary Professor at the University of Bayreuth. He is the winner of the O.P. Alford III Prize in Political Economy and has been published in the Austrian Journal of Economics. His personal website is www.thorsten-polleit.com.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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