The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. They, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics.
Here’s how it works; you be the judge.
The first question is, if the Fed is buying, who is selling? Answer: The banks and the public. If the banks exchange their T-bonds for cash, will that stimulate the economy? Will that make banks more likely to lend? Are banks short of lending cash? The answers are, “No, no and no.”
Banks are not lending primarily because they can lend to the government, risk free, and make an easy 2% on their money. They are not short of lending funds. They don’t want the hassle of credit checking, defaults, collections, etc. Just borrow from the government at 0% and lend back at 2%. What could be easier?
The other reason banks haven’t lent is because business isn’t borrowing. Congress has made sure business has no idea what will happen, tomorrow. Taxes? Who knows? Interest rates? Unsure. A recovery? When? Expand my operations? Are you kidding? So with lenders and borrowers both unmotivated, lending is unlikely.
Well, what about the public? Do Fed bond purchases from the public stimulate the economy? When the Fed trades cash for T-bonds, this is tantamount to advancing the maturity date on those T-bonds. So what will the holder of T-bonds do when the government gives him cash for his bonds? He likes T-bonds, so if he can get a good price, he probably will buy more bonds – right back where he started.
But let’s say some people decide to invest those dollars in something other than T-bonds. Is that stimulative? Yes, but there is another problem. When the Fed buys bonds, the future interest on those bonds is not paid into the economy. The Fed’s purchase reduces future government interest payments, and that is anti-stimulative.
So my take on the $600 billion purchase is that it might have a very small and very temporary stimulative effect. Far better, and far more stimulative would be if the federal government cut taxes by $600 billion. But since our politicians don’t understand monetary sovereignty, that is unlikely to happen.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Those who say the stimulus “didn’t work” remind me of the guy whose house is on fire. A neighbor runs with a garden hose and starts spraying, but the fire continues. The neighbor wants to call the fire department, which would bring the big hoses, but the guy says, “Don’t call. As you can see, water doesn’t put out fires.”