Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now the Fed is Trying to Give Away Cash

I honestly don't know what to think. A few years ago when Alan Greenspan dropped the key interest rate to 1 I thought it was a huge mistake. I did not think that the situation warrented it, and I was concerned about the flood of money into an economy based on perceived wealth. Now today the Federal Reserve has again cut its target for overnight interest rates, but this time they have dropped the rate from zero to 0.25%. I'm not even sure what that means, is it zero or is it 0.25%?

Whatever it is, its a pretty unconventional action. I know that the Fed and Bernanke are trying to do everything they can to lift the economy out of a year-long recession, but is this the right action? Cutting interest rates to 0.25% or 0% is not going to resolve any of the fundemental problems in the economy, other than to provid banks with very cheap money. I would not have done this unless there was a guarantee that the banks would drop their interest rates.

Paul Krugman writes in his blog today:


"That’s zero interest rate policy. And it has arrived. America has turned Japanese."

"This is the thing I’ve been afraid of ever since I realized that Japan really was in the dreaded, possibly mythical liquidity trap."

"Seriously, we are in very deep trouble. Getting out of this will require a lot of creativity, and maybe some luck too."

With the Fed's key rate now essentially zero, the central bank is moving into uncharted territory. Nonetheless, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has made it clear the Fed isn't running out of ammunition to fight the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Except that it basically has.

Bernanke claims that the Fed is exploring using tools other than rate cuts to revive the economy. Trouble is he does not have the authority or clout to really do anything else. Bernanke and his colleagues wrap up a two-day meeting Tuesday, but no one is sure what will come out of it.
The Fed is trying to send a message that it is ready to do everything in its power to stop the economy's free fall, but they have pretty much used up all their power.

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