Posts tagged ‘money supply’

Uhhh, So?

Apparently it is some kind of amazing new insight or quasi-scandal that the Fed seems to care more about inflation than unemployment, at least as measured by the language of its meeting notes.

Call me crazy, but the Fed's job is to manage the currency and money supply, not to manage employment or the broader economy.  I have always assumed that it was understood by all that keeping the value of money stable (ie fighting inflation) was the Fed's priority ahead of other economic issues.  What am I missing here?

Forgetting the Fed -- Why a Recovery May Actually Increase Public Debt

Note:  I am not an expert on the Fed or the operation of the money supply.  Let me know if I am missing something fundamental below

Kevin Drum dredges up this chart from somewhere to supposedly demonstrate that only a little bit of spending cuts are needed to achieve fiscal stability.

Likely the numbers in this chart are a total crock - spending cuts over 10 years are never as large as the government forecasts and tax increases, particularly on the rich, seldom yield as much revenue as expected.

But leave those concerns aside.  What about the Fed?  The debt as a percent of GDP shown for 2012 in this chart is around 72%.  Though it is not labelled as such, this means that this chart is showing public, rather than total, government debt.  The difference is the amount of debt held by federal agencies.  Of late, this amount has been increasing rapidly as the Fed buys Federal debt with printed money.  Currently the total debt as a percent of GDP is something like 101%.

The Left likes to use the public debt number, both because it is lower and because it has been rising more slowly than total debt (due to the unprecedented growth of the Fed's balance sheet the last several years).  But if one insists on making 10-year forecasts of public debt rather than total debt, then one must also forecast Fed actions as part of the mix.

Specifically, the Fed almost certainly will have to start selling some of the debt on its books to the public when the economy starts to recover.  That, at least, is the theory as I understand it: when interest rates can't be lowered further, the Fed can apply further stimulus via quantitative easing, the expansion of the money supply achieved by buying US debt with printed money.  But the flip side of that theory is that when the economy starts to heat up, that debt has to be sold again, sopping up the excess money supply to avoid inflation.  In effect, this will increase the public debt relative to the total debt.

It is pretty clear that the authors of this chart have not assumed any selling of debt from the Fed balance sheet.  The Fed holds about $2 trillion in assets more than it held before the financial crisis, so that selling these into a recovery would increase the public debt as a percent of GDP by 12 points.  In fact, I don't know how they get the red line dropping like it does unless they assume the current QE goes on forever, ie that the FED continues to sop up a half trillion dollars or so of debt every year and takes it out of public hands.

This is incredibly unrealistic.  While a recovery will likely be the one thing that tends to slow the rise of total debt, it may well force the Fed to dump a lot of its balance sheet (and certainly end QE), leading to a rise in public debt.

Here is my prediction:  This is the last year that the Left will insist that public debt is the right number to look at (as opposed to total debt).  With a reversal in QE, as well as the reversal in Social Security cash flow, public debt will soon be rising faster than total debt, and the Left will begin to assure us that total debt rather than public debt is the right number to look at.

Ka-chunk Ka-chunk

That is the sound of the printing presses running 24/7.  Because that appears to be how we are funding all of Obama's spending right now (source)

When folks say they are not worried about the deficit, because folks still seem eager to buy our debt (as evidenced by the low interest rates) note that the general public has been a net seller of US debt the first 2 quarters of 2011.  In fact, the only buyer has been Uncle Sam himself, buying up the debt with newly minted cash (or electrons, really).

One other interesting issue, the Fed seems to have been soaking up the money supply in the early days of the recession, before the high-profile business and financial failures really got things moving downward.

Does Anyone in the Media Understand Concentration and Doses

This is an interesting and frustrating article describing the efforts by environmental groups to ban thermal paper with BPA in it.  The argument is that thermal paper receipts touch money, contaminating the paper money supply such that people will have BPA pass into their bloodstream by dermal absorption from money.

Of course, this is only scary if you have absolutely no common sense about doses.  The exposures are simply absurdly small, from a chemical that it is not even clear has long-term harms (the article talks about nano-grams of exposure -- when you start talking nano-grams, you might as well just count individual molecules).  And, as an added bonus, its ban in thermal paper simply pushes manufacturers to use chemicals that are not necesarily safer, just less studied and without the "BPA" name that the media has tarnished so badly.  Incredibly, at least one state, Connecticut, actually followed through on this useless ban scheme.

You don't have to convince me money is dirty -- I am sure any bill in my pocket is crawling with viruses and bacteria and other weird stuff.  Carrying around money is like toting around pieces of clothing someone else has worn for 6 months without washing.  So I am sure the bills in my pocket are icky, but to get worked up about BPA rubbed off from my last Home Depot receipt is just insane.

Holy *$%&#%

This graph of the US monetary supply is un-freaking-believeable.  Someone please tell me that this is a data error or something.  I guess this is one way to bail out borrowers -- if you create enough inflation, then the real value of principle owed drops.  Sure looks like it is time to borrow long at fixed rates.  Are real interest rates about to go negative?

money

Via Phil Miller

By the way, this really gives the lie to the whole government stimulus effort.  They may be moving large amounts of money around, but they can't create value, and in the absence of real value creation all they are doing is inflating the currency.