‘The Fed’ and We, The People

The ‘Federal Open Market Committee‘ recently announced[1] a plan to reduce its monthly purchases of financial instruments (generally mortgage bonds and ‘treasuries’ – US Government bonds) from US$50 to US$35 Billion. Interesting how they want to pump all this money into the sort of investments held mostly by the wealthiest Americans and the corporations that profit on their trading.

Not to discount the size or importance of the mortgage industry in a society that continues to worship ownership’ of single family houses, regardless of the cost to the environment and the true cost of 30 year indentured servitude. Fiscal ‘common wisdom’ is that consumer spending/ demand is the largest driver of a solid economy; “more than 70% of what the U.S. produces is for personal consumption.“[2] Of course that figure can be manipulated and disputed. The GDP measures the final output, not all the financial transactions (such as business investment in equipment) that precede the output. Neo-cons love to sidetrack important discussions with arguments over semantics. Who can blame them; their control of language has changed ‘ the Estate Tax‘ into a ‘death tax‘ etc.

But the fact remains that it is consumer demand (or lack thereof) that drives the economy. A company won’t invest in equipment, labour etc without a belief that sales will result. And so if the Fed were really interested in driving consumer demand they would stop wasting our money by shoveling so much of it to those who least need it. Really – after the first Billion who cares?

Early in 2009 after the US Government sent out Stimulus Cheques that weren’t large enough to stimulate much except derision I suggested that if there was to be another government attempt to help we, the people there needed to be a plan that would make a significant impact on those who would immediately benefit- and benefit us all in the process. At the time I suggested the government “identify the 50 million households with the lowest income. Send each one a $10,000 tax-free gift. Cost of payments; $500 billion. Certainly in line with other Bail Out plans. Sure, some of us might save a portion of that, but I can’t believe we won’t spend most of it on fancy stuff like groceries, mortgage (or rent), and a few might go crazy and spend some on a summer vacation one state over.“[3]

US$500 billion was what the Fed spent in 10 months at the previous rate and only a bit more than a year at the newest one. The impact on consumer demand and confidence would be huge and immediate. Many companies would be slow to hire more people in case the bump was temporary but being able to pay closing costs to refinance a 6% loan to under 4% would free up even more consumer money going forward. Paying down credit card debt has a mixed history; some people learn the lesson and don’t run it back up. Although that might seem bad to the ‘financial services’ industry, such restraint is good for the long-term financial stability of households and thus society over-all. The ones who do keep a large balance on their credit card(s) are driving consumer demand; but a discussion on replacing a consumption-based economy is not for today.

What a silly idea; having governments and the Fed doing what is good for the most people rather than the most wealthy.

[1] Source: Forbes
[2] Source: about.com
[3] March 2009 post

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