And here’s another hitch in the story. Using the break-even TIPS, the Federal Reserve’s zero target rate is really minus-1.7 percent, which is the same sort of negative real interest rate we had in the early and mid-2000s. This is undoubtedly why Kansas City Fed president Thomas Hoenig is worried about a new boom-bust cycle.
Hoenig calls the Fed’s latest decision to maintain the zero-interest-rate target a “dangerous gamble.” Those are strong words of criticism leveled at Ben Bernanke and the other Fed bigwigs. Hoenig says the financial emergency is over and predicts a modest economic recovery that requires small increases in the Fed’s target rate — still accommodative, but slightly less so.
Hoenig also echoes the fears of Stanford economist and former Treasury official John Taylor, who argues that the Fed is keeping its target rate too low for too long, just as it did between 2002 and 2005.
Are we doomed to repeat the boom-bust cycle? Very few people agree with Hoenig and Taylor. But one market that does is gold. While bond rates have been declining this summer, gold has jumped $100, and it is hovering near its all-time nominal high. That’s food for thought.
And let me repeat my own mantra: The Fed can produce new money, but it cannot produce new jobs. Fiscal policy — and its threat of overtaxing, over-regulating, and overspending — is what’s ailing the economy. And that threat is reverberating through stock and bond markets. (The stock market, by the way, is still about 11 percent below its late-April peak.)
So the long-run message of the gold rally may be this: The Fed may print too much money, but taxes and regulations may hold back the production of goods and services. And if too much money chasing too few goods is inflationary, then lower taxes and regulations to encourage more goods would promote stronger prosperity and domestic price stability.
Free-market supply-side father Robert Mundell argued for lower tax rates and stable money. Is anyone listening?
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