Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert: The Fed and the Future
Max and Stacy discuss the Fed’s balance sheet and whether or . . . NOT . . . it’s ready to save us all from the next recession. Max continues his interview with Dan Collins of TheChinaMoneyReport.com about China’s booming tech sector. They also discuss the increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and the fierce trade war going on between China and Korea, but let’s focus on the Fed.
It is so important to audit The Federal Reserve, and yet Ted Cruz missed the vote on the bill that would allow this to be done.
A Republican-controlled committee of lawmakers approved a bill on last week to allow a congressional audit of Federal Reserve monetary policy, a proposal Fed policymakers have opposed and which faces an uncertain path to final approval.
Democrats uniformly spoke against the proposal during a meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, suggesting the bill would face stronger resistance than in the past.
“We should not in any way hinder their independence,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, echoing the sentiment of Fed policymakers who say they could come under political pressure to avoid making unpopular decisions such as raising interest rates to slow growth and control inflation.
The next step for the bill would be a floor vote by the entire House, where Republicans hold a solid majority.
Yellen on Monetary Policy
Turning to monetary policy, the FOMC is committed to promoting maximum employment and price stability, as mandated by the Congress. Against the backdrop of headwinds weighing on the economy over the past year, including financial market stresses that emanated from developments abroad, the Committee maintained an unchanged target range for the federal funds rate for most of the year in order to support improvement in the labor market and an increase in inflation toward 2 percent. At its December meeting, the Committee raised the target range for the federal funds rate by 1/4 percentage point, to 1/2 to 3/4 percent. In doing so, the Committee recognized the considerable progress the economy had made toward the FOMC’s dual objectives. The Committee judged that even after this increase in the federal funds rate target, monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.
At its meeting that concluded early this month, the Committee left the target range for the federal funds rate unchanged but reiterated that it expects the evolution of the economy to warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate to achieve and maintain its employment and inflation objectives. As I noted on previous occasions, waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession. Incoming data suggest that labor market conditions continue to strengthen and inflation is moving up to 2 percent, consistent with the Committee’s expectations. At our upcoming meetings, the Committee will evaluate whether employment and inflation are continuing to evolve in line with these expectations, in which case a further adjustment of the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate.
The Committee’s view that gradual increases in the federal funds rate will likely be appropriate reflects the expectation that the neutral federal funds rate–that is, the interest rate that is neither expansionary nor contractionary and that keeps the economy operating on an even keel–will rise somewhat over time. Current estimates of the neutral rate are well below pre-crisis levels–a phenomenon that may reflect slow productivity growth, subdued economic growth abroad, strong demand for safe longer-term assets, and other factors. The Committee anticipates that the depressing effect of these factors will diminish somewhat over time, raising the neutral funds rate, albeit to levels that are still low by historical standards.
That said, the economic outlook is uncertain, and monetary policy is not on a preset course. FOMC participants will adjust their assessments of the appropriate path for the federal funds rate in response to changes to the economic outlook and associated risks as informed by incoming data. Also, changes in fiscal policy or other economic policies could potentially affect the economic outlook. Of course, it is too early to know what policy changes will be put in place or how their economic effects will unfold. While it is not my intention to opine on specific tax or spending proposals, I would point to the importance of improving the pace of longer-run economic growth and raising American living standards with policies aimed at improving productivity. I would also hope that fiscal policy changes will be consistent with putting U.S. fiscal accounts on a sustainable trajectory. In any event, it is important to remember that fiscal policy is only one of the many factors that can influence the economic outlook and the appropriate course of monetary policy. Overall, the FOMC’s monetary policy decisions will be directed to the attainment of its congressionally mandated objectives of maximum employment and price stability.
Finally, the Committee has continued its policy of reinvesting proceeds from maturing Treasury securities and principal payments from agency debt and mortgage-backed securities. This policy, by keeping the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities at sizable levels, has helped maintain accommodative financial conditions.