“many Fed watchers say some of the root causes of inflation lie outside the central bank’s control, like the U.S. labor shortage, global supply chain snags and Russia’s war on Ukraine. They’re raising concern that higher rates could crimp growth without leading to much relief on prices — a point that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has hammered away at Powell for months.”
“Markets are expecting rates to rise nearly 2 more percentage points by the end of the year. That would bring them to a level that is more normal by historical standards — the Fed’s main borrowing rate would sit above 4 percent — but is staggeringly high compared to the near-zero rates that have mostly prevailed for more than a decade.”
“China has recruited Federal Reserve economists for more than a decade to share sensitive and confidential information about U.S. economic policymaking in a bid to gain influence over the central bank, a Senate Republican charged in a report Tuesday.
The report from Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the top GOP lawmaker on the Homeland Security committee, detailed what Senate investigators called “long-running and brazen actions by Chinese officials and certain Federal Reserve employees” to replicate the playbook China has used to infiltrate the science and technology sectors. It involves recruiting industry experts to provide proprietary information or research in exchange for monetary benefits or other incentives, it said.
The Fed has failed to effectively combat the threat and doesn’t have sufficient expertise in counterintelligence or adequate policies to thwart China’s influence campaign, which includes efforts to obtain information about interest-rate decisions, the report concluded. It calls on Congress to enact bipartisan legislation that would enhance security around federally funded research, among other measures.”
“In 1981, the US was in the midst of a second brutal stint of double-digit inflation in less than a decade. Gas prices were through the roof; mortgage rates were sky-high, keeping many middle-class people from being able to buy homes. The job market was weak, too, with unemployment above 7 percent. The nation was in full crisis.
The crisis would end, and most economists give credit for ending it to Paul Volcker, the chair of the Federal Reserve. Volcker got inflation under control through the economic equivalent of chemotherapy: He engineered two massive, but brief, recessions, to slash spending and force inflation down. By the end of the 1980s, inflation was ebbing and the economy was booming.
The 2022 inflation is not as bad as the inflation of 1978-1982 — but it’s the worst inflation the US has experienced in decades. The Federal Reserve is, accordingly, raising interest rates aggressively, as Volcker did. It’s not trying to engineer a recession, but its actions could cause one as an unintended consequence. And if inflation continues to be a major problem, demands for an even more aggressive Volcker-style response will grow.
A rerun of the Volcker shock or something like it is a real possibility, if not a likelihood. Which makes understanding what the first one entailed”
“As the greatest inflation spike of the last 50 years occurs, the utter failure of economists, their models, and many pundits to foresee what was coming is worth highlighting. Of course, the biggest malfunction in the story was that of the Federal Reserve itself, which had a clear mandate to keep prices stable and seems surprised by their lack of stability.
It’s no understatement to say that the Fed failed to properly anticipate the inflation surge. On Feb. 8, 2021, Raphael Bostic, the president of the Atlanta branch of the Fed, said, “I’m really not expecting us to see a spike in inflation that is very robust in the next 12 months or so.” A few days later, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren echoed this sentiment, noting that he would be “surprised” to see broad-based inflation sustained at a level of two percent before the end of 2022.
As the saying goes, problems often start at the top. When testifying before the House Financial Services Committee in February 2021, Fed Chair Jerome Powell predicted that it might take more than three years to hit the two percent inflation goal.
Around the summer of 2021, inflation became hard to ignore. Yet Fed officials insisted that it wasn’t yet time to roll back their temporary policies because they weren’t responsible for the rise in prices. The main villain was identified as supply-chain restraints. Once resolved, we were told, inflation would prove to be transitory. Testifying in June of last year before a House subcommittee, Powell said:
“If you look…at the categories where these prices are really going up, you’ll see that it tends to be areas that are directly affected by the reopening. That’s something that we’ll go through over a period…then be over. And it should not leave much of a mark on the ongoing inflation process.”
During a speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last August, Powell again echoed this sentiment. He also noted that “longer-term inflation expectations have moved much less than actual inflation or near-term expectations, suggesting that households, businesses, and market participants also believe that current high inflation readings are likely to prove transitory.”
But as Hoover Institution economist John Cochrane has been reminding us all along, long-term inflation expectations are notoriously poor predictors of inflation. Sadly, few listened, and team “transitory” was born.”
“The Fed has penciled in three rate hikes this year, and the first could come as soon as March.”
“Adam Ozimek, chief economist at freelancing platform Upwork, said the Fed misjudged how large the inflation spike would be, though he still thinks — as the Fed previously argued — that price increases will eventually start to cool on their own. He said the danger instead is that the Fed will overreact to levels of inflation that ultimately prove temporary, hurting the millions who still haven’t returned to the labor force.
“Inflation is by any measure extremely high, yet labor slack remains significant as well and we are far from full employment,” he said. “The policy challenge is far more complicated than in 2018, when Powell faced uncertainty about labor slack but without the added pressure of high inflation.”
Still, others have praised the Fed’s restraint amid the price spikes, keeping rates low and allowing the job market to heal more quickly. They argue that inflation is significantly being fed by supply chain issues that the central bank isn’t equipped to solve.
Former Fed Chair William McChesney Martin once said the central bank’s job was “to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.” But Sahm argued that a few rate increases don’t have to ruin anything.
“Things are getting better,” she said. “We need to pour a little less punch in the punch bowl.””
The Real News Podcast – Modern Monetary Theory – A Debate Between Randall Wray and Gerald Epstein The Real News. 2019. https://www.spreaker.com/user/therealnews/the-real-news-podcast-modern-monetary-th Is MMT “America First” Economics? Gerald Epstein. 3 20 2019. Institute for New Economic Thinking. https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/is-mmt-america-first-economics On Modern Monetary Theory
“the Fed under Chair Jerome Powell, which has endured more than a year of abuse from President Donald Trump for not doing more to boost the economy, is now embarked on the quickest and most massive response to a crisis in its more than 100-year history.”