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Stop Monetary Policy from Getting Progessively Worse

Thursday, September 22, 2011
By Dan

Progressives (née Liberals) far and wide are crying foul over a letter from the GOP Congressional leadership to the chair of the Federal Reserve Board. The letter has drawn charges of intentional sabotage and that the GOP wants America to fail. Dick Durbin even had to break away from his yeoman’s work of destroying your free checking and crippling the consumer banking industry, to cry foul.*

You’ll no doubt recall that Senator Durbin’s misplaced arrogance led to price fixing on debit card transaction, a move that costs banks and consumers dearly, but will benefit the bottom line of his big box retail donors. Dick believes it is inappropriate for the GOP to pressure the Fed on monetary policy.  Of course, he should know, this is the exact same thing he did seven months ago.  Dick, who’s never had a real job outside of politics, also believes he knows how to allocate risk in an insanely complex system that safely processes over $1.3 trillion a year better than people who have done it for decades.  So maybe we should take the crazy things he believes with a grain of salt.

Liberals love to throw money at things, especially when it’s someone else’s money.

There is no reason why the GOP, or anyone, cannot send a letter, an email, a video, a dead fish or a horses head (subject to local law, some exclusions apply), to the Fed.  The Fed is an independent central bank, and is designed to shrug off political criticism.  If Ben Bernanke cannot handle a few angry politicians, he is not the right man for the job.

To the substantive point of the criticism, though, discouraging the Fed from printing more money is not sabotage, or even evidence of some Vast, Right Wing Conspiracy™ to bring down President Obama.  Governing is choosing, and there is a clear choice here:

  1. Do we print more money (a THIRD try at quantitative easing) and hope against experience that this time, the banks begin to lend to companies and investors that don’t want to borrow and people begin to spend on things they don’t need; or
  2. Do we reform our tax and regulatory process and encourage people to invest and spend the money they already have.

Liberals love to throw money at things, especially when it’s someone else’s money.  But there are real consequences to quantitative easing (a fancy phrase for printing more money to throw at stuff).  When you print more money, each dollar becomes less valuable.  This is great if you’re a debtor, because it’s cheaper to pay off $14 trillion when the dollar is not worth as much as when you borrowed it.

They see capitalism as an incomprehensible dark art involving incantations read from the Wall Street Journal over mahogany altars.

But if you already have money, inflation is a silent thief.  Warren Buffett, Obama’s best buddy, has said for years that inflation is more confiscatory than any tax increase.  And if we show a willingness to pay off our enormous debt by devaluing the dollar, we may find that the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency (see artists renderings).

More importantly, the purpose of printing money is to make it cheaper for people to borrow.  Interest rates are already ridiculously low.  No matter how low they go, no one can force unwilling capital to invest.  Obama has made it clear that he is no friend of capitalism, and his regulatory promiscuity and demagoguery is impairing expansion and investment.  The CEO of Euro Pacific Capital testified today that he was fined for hiring too many people, and had to spend half a million dollars to fight off regulators.  Regulators have run amok, and the uncertainty is undermining expansion.

They beat on the fuselage of the gleaming, silver jet of capitalism and grunt “make fly now!”

It’s not just hiring and expansion, either.  Investor confidence is almost as low today as it was right after the Lehman collapse.  Ask yourself, if you came into money tomorrow, would you buy a second home, or would you hold on to the money until the housing market hits bottom?  Would you invest in the stock market, or wait until the ups start outnumbering the downs on a more regular basis?  Would you invest in a business, hire new workers and expand, or would uncertainty–not just in your product–but in the regulatory and economic landscape make you guard your nest egg?

Unless an investor believes prices are more likely to go up than down, investing is a fool’s errand.  And a fool and his money are soon invested in Solyndra.   People are spooked, and until the world starts to make sense again, they will keep their money under their mattress–no matter how cheap Bernanke makes it to borrow more.

Liberals may understand this, or they may not.  It is tempting to believe that our liberal friends see capitalism as black magic voodoo; an incomprehensible dark art involving incantations read from the Wall Street Journal over mahogany altars..  Like an anachronistic caveman, they beat on the fuselage of the gleaming, silver jet of capitalism and grunt “make fly now!”  All the while, damaging the sensitive avionics with their thorny, regulatory clubs.  Occasionally, Warren Buffett shouts “beat harder!”

We have to decide if we’re going to make life easier for ourselves now and harder for our children later, or vice versa.  It’s a choice, and it has consequences.  So the next time someone you are part of the “let him die” party, or want to subsidize corporate jets at the expense of children’s safety, or that you’re trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children and the middle class, ask them if they’d rather deficit spend and print money on the backs of their unborn grandchildren.

*Fair disclosure: I work in the credit card industry, though not for a bank.  I know these issues well, but I also have a (very indirect and slight) financial stake in the outcome.

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