In case you didn't see it, Jon Stewart offered his observations on US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's Sunday interview with 60 Minutes.
I can't embed the clip, but you can watch by clicking here.
Bernanke said on Sunday that "one myth that is out there is that we are doing is printing money. We're not printing money."
Bernanke made this statement in response to the Fed's actions of creating money out of thin air and buying government bonds.
Stewart juxtaposes Ben's latest 60 Minutes interview against another 60 Minutes interview the Chairman gave just 21 months ago when he was justifying buying corporate assets from the banks.
- Bernanke: "To lend to a bank we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account that they have with the Fed, so it's much more akin, although not exactly the same, it's much more akin to printing money than it is to borrowing."
Interviewer: "You've been printing money then?"
Bernanke: "Well... effectively and we need to do that"
So, as Stewart notes, the difference was that then the Fed was creating money out of thin air to buy corporate assets and now it's buying government bonds.
How is it that you were printing money then, but now you're not?
Stewart observes, "I guess Bernanke was looking at the average age of the 60 Minutes viewer and betting that anyone who saw him last year is dead now."
While humorous, it does expose something that many critics are sharply focusing on: Bernanke came on national TV and lied to the American people.
In fact, as Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Captial writes, Bernanke came out and told 2 big lies.
- Lie #1 - The Fed isn’t printing money. Bernanke stated: “The amount of currency in circulation is not changing…the money supply is not changing in any significant way. What we’re doing is lowering interest rates by buying Treasury securities.” Given that it is the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, not the Fed, that actually prints paper money, his statement is technically correct while substantively false. However, Bernanke is buying bank assets with Fed credit. With such an arrangement, printing becomes unnecessary.
According to gentle Ben, credit created to buy something should not be considered money and has no affect on asset prices? But if that’s true, why is he concentrating his buying in the middle of the Treasury yield curve. His stated purpose is to boost bond prices and lower yields in order to stimulate borrowing and aggregate demand. So pushing up bond prices is an act of inflation. Bernanke similarly contradicts himself by saying that he isn’t creating inflation, while at the same time claiming that his easing campaign is designed to boost asset prices to combat the phantom of deflation.
And by the way, the Fed is causing money supply to increase significantly. The compounded annual growth rate of M2 is over 7% in the last quarter. Apparently in the eyes of the Chairman, a 7% annualized increase in the broad money supply isn’t considered significant.
Lie #2- Bernanke is “100 % confident” that, when necessary, the Fed can control inflation and reverse its accommodative monetary policy. He stated, “We’ve been very, very clear that we will not allow inflation to rise above 2 percent. We could raise interest rates in 15 minutes if we have to. So, there really is no problem with raising rates, tightening monetary policy, slowing the economy, reducing inflation, at the appropriate time.” He failed to mention that the Fed doesn’t have the will to drain money from the system, without which all tools are useless. The Fed has consistently demonstrated its unwillingness to take the appropriate actions when necessary. In claiming he is 100% confident in his ability to control inflation, Mr. Bernanke ignores the record that during his tenure he has misdiagnosed the economy.
In June of 2006, Bernanke culminated his inflation fighting efforts by raising the Fed Funds target rate to 5.25%, after CPI inflation reached 4.2%. But that interest rate was enough to help burst the housing bubble and to spark an international credit crisis. Bernanke was completely unaware that the Fed actions had created an economy that had become completely addicted to artificially-produced low interest rates and inflation.
Shortly after the collapse of the real estate market and the ensuing truncated deflationary-depression, Bernanke took interest rates to near zero percent. But if the Fed was ever really serious about unwinding excessive leverage, the time had clearly arrived. Instead, the U.S. economy has become more addicted to free money than at any other time in our history.
Commodity prices are soaring once again and the real estate market, banking sector, and the overall economy cling precariously on the arm of government induced bailouts and low interest rates. Even worse, our government has massively increased its level of debt, which now stands at just below $14 trillion. Once the rate of inflation eclipses the Fed’s 2% target rate, which appears likely, how then will the Fed raise rates to contain it? Could the economy then withstand an increase in the cost of home ownership? Most importantly, when will Mr. Bernanke find it politically tenable to dramatically increase debt service payments for the Federal government? In truth, there is never a convenient time to have a severe recession or a depression. Unfortunately, reality can be extremely inconvenient.
Bernanke was accurate in saying that the economy is not expanding at a sustainable pace. Of course, his prescription was the same as it always is; print more money in the misguided belief that inflation will lead to growth. As such, he indicated that it’s possible that the Fed may actually expand bond purchases beyond the $600 billion announced last month. (Remember that the $600 billion comes after the $1.7 trillion that has already been printed, which failed to produce anything much beyond a weaker dollar). Therefore, the country can look forward to yet more inflation, continued anemic GDP growth, a poorer citizenry, and a vastly lower standard of living.
All of this is followed by news that US Treasuries have suffered their biggest sell off since the collapse of Lehman Bros (see reprint of Financial Times story on this blog).
Thus when QE is supposed to be lowering interest rates, they are rising.
This dynamic is the one which all the R/E shills in the Village on the Edge of the Rainforest remain oblivious/ignorant to.
Bernanke can say he will keep interest rates low for years to come. But the market vigilantes have the ultimate say.
I've posted on this blog numerous times the fears stated by former Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan that this could happen.
Dramatically higher interest rates are coming. It's only a matter of time.
And when they come, as Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has been warning for months now, you don't want to be holding debt of any significance that you can't service at interest rates at the historic norm (8.25% or higher).
People mock the Bears because the collapse has not come yet and anyone who has bought in the last 7 years is way ahead than if they had listened to the Bears.
But unless they cash in on that equity now, hardly any of those buyers will survive what is coming.
Which is why two and a half years ago I became a staunch real estate bear and highly advocate liquidating debt, eschewing debt accumulation and investing to prepare for what is coming.
Regrettably few will appreciate the advice until it is too late.
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.