Yes. David Stockman is an author. He is interested in selling books, in particular his recent The Great Deformation. Points all considered and duly registered. But his cautions are real and his delivery blunt.
“The Corruption of Capitalism in America” is the title of his March 31, 2013 New York Times piece. His fundamental point is that the “latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode…”
Essentially he states that when the Fed decides it must rest or withdraw from its hyper-accommodative policies, the market will “panic.” There is too much company leaning in one direction and it all relies on the “final word” of the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke.
The American Thinker posted an article to just this point a few days before Mr. Stockman’s New York Times op ed.
Mr. Stockman could not be more adamant about his position. He drives home the fact that the massive accommodations have had muted, masked, and artificial results. He cites the anemic economic output, slack real business investment, falling payroll job count, tepid median family income, and increased food stamp and disability recipient counts. (rising to one in five., i.e. 59 million).
Mr. Stockman observes:
… the Main Street economy is failing while Washington is piling a soaring debt burden on our descendants, unable to rein in either the warfare state or the welfare state or raise the taxes needed to pay the nation’s bills. By default, the Fed has resorted to a radical, uncharted spree of money printing. But the flood of liquidity, instead of spurring banks to lend and corporations to spend, has stayed trapped in the canyons of Wall Street, where it is inflating yet another unsustainable bubble.
In a brief history lesson, Mr. Stockman relates to us the Greenspan accommodations and the effects of massive imports on our inflation numbers.
That Mr. Greenspan’s loose monetary policies didn’t set off inflation was only because domestic prices for goods and labor were crushed by the huge flow of imports from the factories of Asia. By offshoring America’s tradable-goods sector, the Fed kept the Consumer Price Index contained, but also permitted the excess liquidity to foster a roaring inflation in financial assets. Mr. Greenspan’s pandering incited the greatest equity boom in history, with the stock market rising fivefold between the 1987 crash and the 2000 dot-com bust.
The same imports that held down our inflation numbers, thus giving the Fed the green light in loose money policies, is the same factor that collapsed our manufacturing and forced us into a mere “service” economy. Those cheaply imported manufactured goods kept inflation down but also closed our production capacities. These factors now inhibit our real job growth making Bernanke’s goal of 6.5% unemployment a pipe dream.
What gives Stockman some added credence is that his finger pointing is bipartisan:
This dynamic reinforced the Reaganite shibboleth that “deficits don’t matter” …..allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars, a giant expansion of Medicare and a tax-cutting spree for the wealthy that turned K Street lobbyists into the de facto office of national tax policy. In effect, the G.O.P. embraced Keynesianism – for the wealthy.
Mr. Stockman should write a position paper for the “Occupy Wall Streeters.” It might send them on the right path. He lambasts former Goldman Sachs CEO Paulson for his friendship bailouts to his Wall Street cronies, and for insulating them from the loses they “so richly deserved.”
Continuing with his across-the-aisle net casting, Stockman adds his comments on the wisdom of the Obama stimulus.
The Democratic Keynesians, as intellectually bankrupt as their Republican counterparts (though less hypocritical), had no solution beyond handing out borrowed money to consumers, hoping they would buy a lawn mower, a flat-screen TV or, at least, dinner at Red Lobster.
In a video interview regarding his March 31, 2013 opinion editorial, the former budget director and former economic advisor to Ronald Reagan uses strong verbiage to make his points of caution. He rings the “fire bell in the night”.
“The Fed is a Deadly Instrument of Speculation” Stockman says, allowing Wall Street to recoup but doing little for the remainder of the country. “The Fed is a bubble machine that only works for the speculators and the traders and the 1%.” This position is a blend of Ron Paul and the Occupy Movement.
Citing that the Fed has created the “greatest bond market bubble in history” which is none other than “a big arbitrage, the most dangerous thing any central bank in history has ever done”, Stockman suggests any hint of a Fed policy change would be catastrophic to the markets.
Stockman notes that the Feds balance sheet was $500 billion the last time the Standard and Poor’s Index was at these levels several years ago. Now, the Fed’s balance sheet increases by nearly $100 billion… A MONTH!
Instead of moderation, what’s at hand is a Great Deformation, arising from a rogue central bank that has abetted the Wall Street casino, crucified savers on a cross of zero interest rates and fueled a global commodity bubble that erodes Main Street living standards through rising food and energy prices — a form of inflation that the Fed fecklessly disregards in calculating inflation.
Stockman warns that there is no graceful exit. A small rise in rates “…will elicit a tidal wave of sell orders, because even a modest drop in bond prices would destroy the arbitrageurs’ profits. Notwithstanding Mr. Bernanke’s assurances about eventually, gradually making a smooth exit, the Fed is domiciled in a monetary prison of its own making.”
Can anyone argue that asset evaluations are false when the cost of money is artificial?
Stockman asks if it is possible to “restore (ing) the central bank’s original mission: to provide liquidity in times of crisis but never to buy government debt or try to micromanage the economy. Getting the Fed out of the financial markets is the only way to put free markets and genuine wealth creation back into capitalism.”
As noted in the American Thinker article of March 29th, the Fed has become something it once was not. Not only have they expanded their balance sheet, they have assumed new powers under emergency conditions, then made them permanent. They have focused on some mandates while ignoring others. This is quite a brew Ben has in his caldron. But now Bernanke may be more focused on his own exit strategy rather than from the Fed’s apparently inextricable situation. There is no feasible way to drain this punch bowl.