In a step that will be one of the markers on the road to economic and financial catastrophe, the Federal Open Market Committee (otherwise known as the FOMC) of the Federal Reserve, made a bombshell policy decision on August 10, 2010, one fraught with dangerous long-term consequences for the American and global economy.
In a policy being dubbed QE2, the Federal Reserve's FOMC conceded that the so-called U.S. economic recovery has "slowed," and required more stimulus from the Fed. However, with federal funds interest rates now effectively at zero, the only aspect of monetary policy left is money printing. Thus, the Federal Reserve, in effect, will use its printing press to buy long-term U.S. government debt.
Of course, that is not how the FOMC is positioning this major escalation in quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve. In the dry, obtuse language that the obscurantists of the Federal Reserve love to engage in, the committee's official statement said:
"To help support the economic recovery in a context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve's holdings of securities at their current level by reinvesting principal payments from agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in longer-term Treasury securities. The Committee will continue to roll over the Federal Reserve's holdings of Treasury securities as they mature."
In its first bout of heavy quantitative easing, in the wake of the implosion of the major Wall Street investment banks in the fall of 2008, Ben Bernanke, utilizing his printing press, purchased $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities, and an additional $200 billion in debts owed by so-called government-sponsored enterprises, primarily Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
This massive explosion in the Fed's balance sheet has thus far failed to stimulate economic activity and retard a persistent deflationary recession. All that Bernanke has accomplished has been to create a new asset bubble, this time on Wall Street, with equities exploding in price far beyond their post-crisis lows.
Beyond the Dow Jones index, however, the impact of Bernanke's balance sheet expansion has been impotent in the face of economic realities, particularly a collapsing labor market and the contraction in consumer demand. The erosion in the M3 money supply, a statistic the Federal Reserve no longer publicly discloses, attests to the failure of its policies.
Now that the Federal Reserve admits, though in its typically obscure linguistic constructs, that a double-dip recession is becoming increasingly likely, Bernanke is going to enter a buying binge of long-term U.S. Treasuries. The hope is that this will stabilize financial markets, and somehow force liquidity into the economy. That, at least is the hope. Given Ben Bernanke's track record, I would not bank on hope in the infallible judgement of the Federal Reserve and its FOMC.
What is likely to result from the QE2 phase of the Federal Reserve's disastrous policymaking? In time, sovereign wealth funds will recognize Bernanke's maneuver for what it is: monetization of the U.S. national debt. When that happens, Treasury auctions will begin to fail, and yields will advance.
This will all put added pressure on the Fed to print even more dollars, and monetize an increasing proportion of the federal government's debt. This will unquestionably inject liquidity into the U.S. economy. But this Federal Reserve monetary injection will be as beneficial as money printing was in Weimar Germany in the early 1920s, or Zimbabwe more recently.
In deciding on a process that will lead to an ever-growing proportion of the U.S. national debt and yearly budget deficits being monetized by its printing press, the Federal Reserve, under the leadership of its chairman, Ben Bernanke, has taken a fateful step towards irredeemable economic and financial ruin, ultimately convulsing America with a savage, hyperinflationary depression. And, as history teaches us, severe economic depressions bring along other unanticipated consequences, often leading to political and social turmoil and even global war.
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