Spending, problems stay high
By John Browne
Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, have bought time for politicians to correct debt-financed economies.
Fearing a loss of voter support, however, leaders in the United States, United Kingdom and European Union have done little to cut profligate spending or restructure their economies.
Despite the creation of cheap, synthetic currency and fudged statistics, consumers remain cautious. Unemployment continues to threaten growth as consumers and businesses accumulate cash. Central banks have salvaged banks and stimulated securities markets to avert a capital market crash.
Even the hint of a reduction in the Fed's Quantitative Easing program (QE) sent securities into a tailspin. Clearly, there was a need for another strategy. Mark Carney, the new governor of the influential Bank of England, appears to have provided it: “Forward Guidance,” a policy of keeping interest rates low for the foreseeable future in an effort to influence the yield curve.
After years of low borrowing costs and trillions of dollars created by the Fed to buy Treasuries, the government shows no sign of restraint. Soon, Treasury debt will top $17 trillion. Added to $124 trillion of promised social benefits, mortgage debt of $13 trillion, $1 trillion of student loans and $3 trillion of local government debt, U.S. debt amounts to a staggering $158 trillion.
That is more than 10 times the gross domestic product and 1.6 times the total $99 trillion value of Americans' private assets.
This is a picture of potential national bankruptcy. It is held at bay by the creation of unlimited amounts of synthetic dollars, justified by the fact that the dollar is the international Reserve Currency.
Published minutes of the Federal Reserve Oversight Committee indicate the Fed's QE policy is causing more trouble than it is solving.
PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian was moved to comment that: “It is also apparent that the Fed is getting more concerned about the ‘costs and risks' of its policy experimentation.”
Some members of Congress are concerned about the Fed's actions. At a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, asked Bernanke: “Where does the Fed get the money to buy [assets]? Do you create the reserves?”
“Yes,” Bernanke responded.
Rothfus asked the Fed chairman whether the Fed was printing money to buy Treasury bills. “Not literally,” Bernanke replied. (You can watch a YouTube video of the exchange here: bit.ly/14fkJnK ).
On July 1, the Bank of England named Carney to replace austerity-minded Sir Mervyn King. The selection of a foreigner — Carney is Canadian — is a first in its 309-year history.
Although Carney was a hit with the media in announcing “Forward Guidance,” central banks have proved far less able than the private sector in predicting the future.
As renowned economist John Maynard Keynes observed: Expectations of future interest rates are key to the establishment of current interest rates. In true Keynesian form, Carney hopes to join other key central bankers in manipulating markets.
John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Trib Total Media. Email him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Beaver County commissioners ask judge to hold sheriff in contempt of earlier court order
- Police say they arrested a fellow cop for driving drunk after he shows up to work intoxicated
- Police: Pa. newlyweds killed man for thrills
- Jokinen takes center stage as fill-in for Pens’ Malkin
- For Steelers defense, it’s all a matter of trust
- Pitt slows down Loyola Marymount, 85-68
- Steelers notebook: Woodley expects to start Sunday vs. Dolphins
- Penguins notebook: Malkin to miss 2nd straight game Saturday
- South Greensburg bugler still playing ‘Taps,’ but few others continue tradition
- Latrobe couple accused of using car trunk to end son’s fear of the dark
- Nigella Lawson: A brand blemished but unbowed