It’s now 2022 and my argument is even more relevant.
That’s because the Federal Reserve panicked at the start of the pandemic and dumped a massive amount of money into the economy (technically, the Fed increased its balance sheet by purchasing trillions of dollars of government bonds).
But that’s only part of the bad news.
The other bad news is that easy-money policy sets the stage for future hard times. In other words, the Fed causes a boom-bust cycle.
Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute explains how and why the Federal Reserve has put the country in a bad situation.
Better late than never. Today, the Federal Reserve finally took decisive monetary policy action to regain control over inflation that has been largely of its own making. …The Fed’s abrupt policy U-turn is good news in that it reduces the likelihood that we will return to the inflation of the 1970s. However, this does not mean that we will avoid paying a heavy price for the Fed’s past policy mistakes in lost output and employment. …One might well ask what the Fed was thinking last year when it kept interest rates at their zero lower bound and when it let the money supply balloon at its fastest pace in over fifty years at a time especially when the economy was recovering strongly… One might also ask what the Fed thought when it continued to buy $120 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities throughout most of last year when the equity and the housing markets were on fire?
The relevant question, he explains, is whether we have a hard landing…or a harder landing.
If the Fed sticks to its program of meaningful interest rate hikes and balance sheet reduction over the remainder of this year, there would seem to be an excellent chance that we do not return to the inflation of the 1970s. However, there is reason to doubt that the Fed will succeed in pushing the inflation genie to the bottle without precipitating a nasty economic recession. One reason for doubting that the Fed will succeed in engineering a soft economic landing is that there is no precedent for the Fed has done so when it has allowed itself to fall as far behind the inflation curve as it has done today. …there is a real risk that higher interest rates might be the trigger that bursts today’s asset and credit market bubbles. Should that indeed happen, we could be in for a tough landing. Milton Friedman was fond of saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is a lesson that the Fed might soon relearn as last year’s economic party gives way to a painful economic slump.
Let’s hope we have a proverbial “soft landing,” but I’m not holding my breath.
P.S. As explained in this video from the Fraser Institute, Friedrich Hayek understood a long time ago that feel-good government intervention leads to a feel-bad economic hangover.