Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is the Federal Reserve Becoming too Powerful?

Is the Federal Reserve becoming too powerful? This question comes up following the events of the arranged marriage of Bear Stearns with JP Morgan. It also comes up following the Fed’s trading of US Government securities for other securities of lesser credit held by securities dealers. It comes after the Federal Reserve has created its new auction facility for bank reserves. And, this is in addition to its role as providing the “Greenspan put” to protect investors on the downside of an asset bubble. Oh, and there is the role of providing liquidity to the financial markets when there is a liquidity crisis. And, the Fed has responsibility for examinations of commercial banks and enforcing regulatory requirements. And, there are many other responsibilities the Federal Reserve is charged with, like the check-clearing system.

Furthermore, the Treasury proposal for the modernization and strengthening of the regulatory system puts the Federal Reserve at the center of the new regulatory universe.

Then there is monetary policy. If inflation is “everywhere and at every time a monetary phenomenon” then the Federal Reserve has responsibility for conducting a monetary policy aimed at maintaining relatively stable prices.

There are two problems connected with this plethora of responsibilities. First, the different responsibilities can have different, even conflicting objectives. By resolving one difficulty, the Fed may be creating another difficulty that must be addressed by another one of its functions. As a consequence, the Federal Reserve may always be attempting to resolve something that it initiated itself in other actions. For example, how does the Fed avoid a financial crisis and constrain inflation at the same time?

Second, when difficulties occur, the public turns to the Federal Reserve as the “savior of last resort” regardless of what the difficulty is. The public is not turning to the Treasury Department, or the SEC, or any other branch of government. It is turning to the Fed as the only agency that can resolve the problems.

The Federal Reserve cannot be allowed to lose its focus! Over the past twenty years or so, nations around the world have discovered that central banks must be independent of its national government in the conduct of economic policy and the central bank must have inflation as its primary focus. While other central banks have taken on this approach to central banking and while many of them have accepted ‘inflation targeting’ as they primary operating function, the Federal Reserve System in the United States has moved in the opposite direction.

Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank stated on Monday that the ECB would set interest rates based on “no other considerations than the delivery of price stability in the medium term.” That is, the ECB cannot be counted on to set interest rates to help the Americans with their financial and economic problems or on anything else at the present time. The focus is on inflation because that is the responsibility of a central bank.

We, in the United States, must be careful going forward in what we ask of the Federal Reserve. Within the current environment there may be too much of a vacuum in other areas of the government to provide the Fed with much assistance in tackling the problems that lie ahead. However, we must beware of what power is given the Federal Reserve, for in adding more responsibilities to the Fed’s portfolio, people will only be causing the Federal Reserve to reduce its attention from the main thing it should be doing.

If this happens it will only create more problems for us in the future.

1 comment:

fedhed said...

Mr. Mason, you are saying things I have been thinking and talking about for quite awhile. I think the Fed has had way too much power since its inception in 1913. And the current state of things is pushing more control their way, not less. I think it is by design though, not being "put upon" them.

Do you agree the Fed is not a government institution, but instead owned by public/private banks which are controlled by wealthy families, i.e., Rockefellers, Warburgs, Rotschilds, etc...?

Only Congress can take power away from the Fed; as I understand it was they who handed over their power to print money to the Fed. Is it realistic to think anyone in Congress knows enough to consider such a challenge much less take a stand and actually do something?

I think our country has been slowly hollowed out by the Fed's actions over the years, including getting Nixon to abandon the gold standard in 1971. Our money is worth so little compared to then with the continual devaluing of the dollar. Very few people know the true effects of inflation on our standard of living.

Do you agree that the JPM/Chase buyout of Bear Stearns was the Fed trying to prevent the credit default swaps counter-party house of cards that was going to tumble if Bear went bankrupt? And didn't JPM/Chase get to "cover" any trades they surely had which were tied to Bear?

I keep thinking the other "big" shoe is yet to drop in all this ($46 trillion in swaps where many unknown counter-party disasters have to be festering) and the Fed is going to wind up with more control than ever before.

Your bio says you had a stint at the Fed. Am I off base in thinking that Mr. Dimon, because he is a member of the Fed committee, was "too close" to put the "rescue" deal together? Or am I incorrect that JPM Chase is one of the largest, if not THE largest, shareholder of the very private Federal Reserve?

If I am wrong about JPM/Chase ownership, can you tell me how any US citizen can determine with certainty the ownership of the Fed? Where are the records and details of ownership?

I think most Americans are clueless about the nature of the Fed and "monetary" policy. I also think the US is just a tool for an overarching global group of families that control the Fed. But you've worked there- can you explain the ownership and intent of the Fed?

Just because a group's actions are a called a conspiracy doesn't mean it isn't true. I think the more one plumbs the depths of the Fed, the murkier things get. And for good reason. These are things we aren't supposed to know, or even ask about.

I think if enough Americans would ask their representatives in Washington, why the Fed has the authority it does to print our money, and keep asking the question repeatedly when they get the same wrong answer(s)over and over again, we might just start a process that unravels the mystery.
I ask everyone I meet to ask this question of their representatives, and would ask you to do the same. "Why is the Fed printing our money, when according to the US Constitution only Congress has this authority?"

Once an honest answer is finally revealed, the next would be "Why did Congress lend this power?".

And I think the next question would be "Should Congress consider taking back some, or all, of the power to print US dollars?"

And somewhere, in all of the discussion might come the answers to who owns the Fed, why we've been on/off/on/off again the gold standard, and probably some nuggets on our dependence on foreigners for energy and capital.

Is it possible our country could start talking about the truth in these issues, and how our standing in the world is being manipulated for the benefit of the true owners of the Fed and manipulators of global money supply?

I get labeled a conspiracy theorist because no one I have ever talked to, or heard/seen on TV or other media, can answer these basic questions. People think I’m crazy to even care about such things. I don’t think they are crazy, but have just been blissfully ignorant until now. So many very strange things are happening economically now, and the inflation we’ve been swept up in for 40 years is finally starting to be known as the sickness it is and even joe citizen is starting to say we’re in way over our heads.

Any chance you have any answers? If not, our country desperately needs some people that are respected in the field of economics to step up and lead the questioning. I’m hoping you can help out.