Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Time The Fed Adopts Volcker Religion

By Robert Wenzel

Federal officials and market players are struggling with the same issues, WSJ reports.Why haven't the steps taken so far calmed the system? What can policy makers do next?

In our book, the answer is simple. The boom was fueled by the Fed's money printing under Alan Greenspan and the early Ben Bernanke.

As we have been emphasizing
in lone wolf fashion--with no regulator or other commentator coming close to mentioning this most important event of the current crisis environment--the Fed over the recent months has for all practical purposes stopped printing money. That's why the market continues to struggle.  The Fed has turned this from just a mortgage crisis, to the beginnings of a major full-fledged economic crisis.

Over the last three months M2 money supply has been growing at a 1.8% annualized rate. This can be compared to earlier this year when M2 annualized money growth was over 10%. In fact, as recently as March, three month annualized money growth was at 12.7%. Few seem to recognize the dramatic shift downward.

A lot of headline watching commentators are even reporting that the Fed is adding gobs of liquidity through their bailout operations, when in fact the Fed has been sterilizing its bailout operations, including the Term Auction Facilities, by either liquidating or loaning out the Treasury securities already in their portfolio.

WSJ reflects current beliefs when it reports:
The Federal Reserve has already slashed interest rates to counteract a deepening credit freeze and instituted its broadest expansion of lending facilities since the Great Depression to keep financial markets functioning.

As mentioned the lending facilities have been sterilized so as not to increase money supply. And we should have learned from the Volcker period that you don't target interest rates to impact the economy, you target money supply. The current Bernanke Fed has seemingly, without being completely aware, slipped into interest rate targeting.

At this point we must add that ideally the Fed shouldn't be monkeying and manipulating the money supply at all, but in realworld economik if the Fed is going to be messing with the money supply, they should be good at it. This means reverting back to Volcker's rejection of targeting interest rates, and instead targeting money supply. In Volcker's case, he targeted money supply to fight inflation, in Bernanke's case, money supply targeting is required to battle economic crisis.

This economy isn't going anywhere until Bernanke gets Volcker "Target The Money Supply" Religion. Failure to do so will lead to an enormous economic crisis which in one sense can be viewed as a cleansing of the mal-investments caused by the money manipulations of Greenspan and Bernanke. However, in the land of realworld economik, the crisis is likely to lead to untold suffocating new regulations, restrictions etc., given that the two current presidential candidates, John McCain and Barak Obama, display no knowledge of the fundamental workings of an economy. 

Robert Wenzel is an economic consultant and Editor & Publisher of He can be reached at

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