FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Will the Fed Broaden Its Focus?

by PETER MORICI

The Federal Reserve will almost certainly cut the target federal funds rate a quarter point to two percent on Wednesday. Fed watchers will be looking at the policy statement for clues as to whether the Fed will pause after cutting rates 3.25 percentage points since June.

The Fed may like to stop cutting rates. So far, rate cuts have aided homeowners with adjustable-rate mortgages and other borrowers with loans indexed to domestic interest rates; however, those cuts have not substantially increased bank lending.

Simply, no matter the prevailing interest rate environment, banks are frozen out of the bond market, where they have increasingly raised funds, over the last two decades, by bundling loans into securities. Having been sold loan-backed securities that were more risky and worth less than the banks represented during the subprime boom, the insurance companies, pension funds and other fixed income investors don’t trust the banks.

Despite changes in the leadership at some major financial houses, banks have done little to win back trust. Similarly, the bond rating agencies seem wedded to cozy relationships with banks, accepting payments from banks to rate securities the banks create.

The trade deficit—in particular, the rising oil import bill and stubborn deficit with China on consumer goods—is a drag on domestic demand equal to 5 percent of GDP. The falling dollar against the euro and other market-determined currencies has helped; however, oil is priced in dollars, and the dollar continues 40 percent, or more, overvalued against the yuan and several other Asian currencies.

Until Bernanke addresses structural problems in bank participation in securities markets—something Treasury and G7 proposals for financial market reform little address– adequate bank credit to power an economic recovery will not be forthcoming, and unemployment will rise.

Until Bernanke challenges Treasury on trade and exchange rate policies, the trade deficit will pose a similar constraint on the economy. In this decade, as the trade deficit grew, consumers cut savings and borrowed more through the banks to shore up domestic demand. Essentially, Americans spent 105 percent of what they earned to keep the economy growing but that house of cards has now collapsed.

Bernanke must take on genuine banking reform and currency and trade policies, or his job is impossible. The latter are outside his portfolio, but past Federal Reserve Chairman have voiced concerns about federal budgets, entitlements and other policies that made their stewardship more difficult.

For now, Bernanke seems more comfortable courting Congressional Democrats by focusing on consumer lending practices—abuses by mortgage brokers, appraisers and credit card companies. This enhances the likelihood of reappointment by a Democratic President. However, if he continues this tack, he will ultimately find his name inscribed in history, not along side Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan who conquered inflation and facilitated great prosperity, but rather along side the likes of Arthur Burns and G. William Miller, who, though politically adroit, gave us The Great Inflation and economic malaise.

PETER MORICI is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Business and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

 

 

 

 

 

PETER MORICI is a professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland School, and the former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
Charles R. Larson
A Review of Mary Roach’s “Grunt”
David Yearsley
Stuck in Houston on the Cusp of the Apocalypse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail