What Does The Fed’s Jerome Powell Have Up His Sleeve?

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The Real Goal of Fed Policy: Breaking Inflation, the Middle Class or the Bubble Economy?

“There is no sense that inflation is coming down,” said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at a November 2 press conference, — this despite eight months of aggressive interest rate hikes and “quantitative tightening.”

On November 30, the stock market rallied when he said smaller interest rate increases are likely ahead and could start in December. But rates will still be increased, not cut.

“By any standard, inflation remains much too high,” Powell said.

“We will stay the course until the job is done.”

Third Seal: Scarcity on Earth

When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”

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The Fed is doubling down on what appears to be a failed policy, driving the economy to the brink of recession without bringing prices down appreciably. Inflation results from “too much money chasing too few goods,” and the Fed has control over only the money – the “demand” side of the equation. Energy and food are the key inflation drivers, and they are on the supply side. As noted by Bloomberg columnist Ramesh Ponnuru  in the Washington Post in March:

Fixing supply chains is of course beyond any central bank’s power. What the Fed can do is reduce spending levels, which would in turn exert downward pressure on prices. But this would be a mistaken response to shortages. It would answer a scarcity of goods by bringing about a scarcity of money. The effect would be to compound the hit to living standards that supply shocks already caused.

So why is the Fed forging ahead? Some pundits think Chairman Powell has something else up his sleeve.

The Problem with “Demand Destruction”

First, a closer look at the problem. Shrinking demand by reducing the money supply – the money available for people to spend – is considered the Fed’s only tool for fighting inflation. The theory behind raising interest rates is that it will reduce the willingness and ability of people and businesses to borrow. The result will be to shrink the money supply, most of which is created by banks when they make loans. The problem is that shrinking demand means shrinking the economy – laying off workers, cutting productivity, and creating new shortages – driving the economy into recession.

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