By Charles Kadlec
The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) has made it official: After its latest two day meeting, it announced its goal to devalue the dollar by 33% over the next 20 years. The debauch of the dollar will be even greater if the Fed exceeds its goal of a 2 percent per year increase in the price level.
An increase in the price level of 2% in any one year is barely noticeable. Under a gold standard, such an increase was uncommon, but not unknown. The difference is that when the dollar was as good as gold, the years of modest inflation would be followed, in time, by declining prices. As a consequence, over longer periods of time, the price level was unchanged. A dollar 20 years hence was still worth a dollar.
But, an increase of 2% a year over a period of 20 years will lead to a 50% increase in the price level. It will take 150 (2032) dollars to purchase the same basket of goods 100 (2012) dollars can buy today. What will be called the “dollar” in 2032 will be worth one-third less (100/150) than what we call a dollar today.
The Fed’s zero interest rate policy accentuates the negative consequences of this steady erosion in the dollar’s buying power by imposing a negative return on short-term bonds and bank deposits. In effect, the Fed has announced a course of action that will steal — there is no better word for it — nearly 10 percent of the value of American’s hard earned savings over the next 4 years.
Why target an annual 2 percent decline in the dollar’s value instead of price stability? Here is the Fed’s answer:
“The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) judges that inflation at the rate of 2 percent (as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, or PCE) is most consistent over the longer run with the Federal Reserve’s mandate for price stability and maximum employment. Over time, a higher inflation rate would reduce the public’s ability to make accurate longer-term economic and financial decisions. On the other hand, a lower inflation rate would be associated with an elevated probability of falling into deflation, which means prices and perhaps wages, on average, are falling–a phenomenon associated with very weak economic conditions. Having at least a small level of inflation makes it less likely that the economy will experience harmful deflation if economic conditions weaken. The FOMC implements monetary policy to help maintain an inflation rate of 2 percent over the medium term.”
In other words, a gradual destruction of the dollar’s value is the best the FOMC can do.
First, the Fed believes that manipulation of interest rates and the value of the dollar can reduce unemployment rates. The results of the past 40 years say the opposite.
The Fed’s finger prints in the form of monetary manipulation are all over the dozen financial crises and spikes in unemployment we have experienced since abandoning the gold standard in 1971. The financial crisis of 2008, caused in no small part by the Fed’s efforts to stimulate the economy by keeping interest rates too low for, as it turned out, way too long is but the latest example of the Fed failing to fulfill its mandate to achieve either price stability or full employment.