OP:ED: Inflation Confounds Federal Reserve And The Economy
Published Mar 10, 2023
The Federal Reserve has embraced stopping inflation as its burden. Indeed, stopping inflation is one of its mandates. Why inflation? Because it is an insidious tax on all persons that quietly eats away any savings one might have. Inflation raises the price on everything by debasing the value of money. Historically, it has led to social upheaval, political upheaval and even, indirectly, to war. Classic cases are when money becomes almost valueless, and both working and retired people find themselves bereft.
How can inflation be stopped? One way is to slow the economy so much that only hard assets retain their value. The trick is to slow the economy, but not send it into reverse. Currently, the Fed is trying to balance a slowdown without causing a recession or worse. The Fed’s tactic is to slow economic activity by raising interest rates, which tamps down consumer spending (roughly 70 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product), real estate activity and business investment. At the moment, the Fed raises interest rates every time strong economic indicators are reported for the prior period. The Fed is always looking in the rearview mirror.
When inflation first appeared, the Fed chair dismissed it by calling it “transitory.” However, due to households’ relatively strong financial conditions, record low unemployment rates, and historically high money supply levels (M2), inflation appears to be persistent and growing stronger. So, the Fed feels bound to continue to raise interest rates to such a level that the economy is stifled. Then, as demand slows, inflation should abate.
So far, the economy is not cooperating. It has remained strong, stronger than it should be under the […]