We pariahs want higher CD rates
Like other dabblers in monetary policy matters, I watched Ben Bernanke’s inaugural press conference last month with interest.
Afterward, I pored over the text of what he’d said.
Did I learn anything new? No.
Bernanke simply confirmed the picture many savers have of the alternate universe he and some of his fellow Fed Governors inhabit.
In this universe, deflation is a far greater economic evil than inflation.
At any hint of price declines, the Fed will train the big guns of "accommodation" on it, and fire for an "extended period."
On the other hand, where data show escalating prices of items like food and gasoline, the Fed will sit back and "monitor" the situation, inclined to believe the price increases to be "transitory."
In other words, no matter the situation, we pay with depressed savings and CD rates.
Further, in Bernanke’s universe, monetary easing never contributes significantly to any financial ill. Economic problems are always caused by other things.
Hence, rising gasoline prices are attributable, Bernanke asserts, primarily to increased global demand and disrupted supply.
Cheap money (fueling speculation) and the shrinking value of our currency (requiring more dollars to purchase a barrel of oil) have very little, if anything, to do with it.
(A sounder analysis was recently offered by crusty, old Jack Welch, who said "(f)ree money in the hands of very smart people for too long is going to create something that’s not very pleasant.")
A companion rule, in the alternate universe of Ben Bernanke, is that the Fed’s loose money policies always achieve their objectives. Evidence to the contrary will be disregarded by policymakers.
Only someone who believes the Fed always does the right thing when it floods the markets with money could conclude, as Bernanke did during his press conference, that "relative to what we expected, anticipated, I think the (QE2) program was successful."
The truth is that Bernanke never met a financial bubble he didn’t like. In his universe, bubbles are welcome, because they create a "wealth effect," triggering a Pavlovian response in consumers to go out and borrow and spend money for things they don’t need.
Savers -- like me -- have no place in this strange universe. We’re pariahs.
Now, you may accuse me of creating a caricature of Bernanke here. But, you have to admit, he does a pretty good job of caricaturing himself.
His press conference was evidence of that.