After keeping interest rates unchanged for four years, yesterday the Fed surprised the markets with a half-percent cut. “Surprise,” I say, because most analysts, including me, had been expecting a 25- basis-point cut.
Yesterday marked a pivotal day for me in respect to my opinion of Ben Bernanke. While I originally believed Bernanke was a different operator than Greenspan, Tuesday, Bernanke confirmed that he plans to lead the Fed in the same fashion Greenspan did: Bail out Wall Street and investors when they are in trouble. Who cares about the bad investment decisions that were made? Let’s just bail them out, forgive and forget.
The statements that accompanied yesterday’s rate cut were very clear from the FOMC: “Today’s action is intended to help forestall some of the adverse effects of the broader economy…” and the Fed will “act as needed to foster price stability and sustainable economic growth.”
The key words above are “help forestall.” The Fed, I believe, in decreasing interest rates so aggressively is simply delaying the inevitable pain that follows any real estate boom. Most obvious, yesterday the Fed acknowledged that the housing market slump, which it originally said would not affect the rest of the U.S. economy, had created a credit problem that is indeed affecting the economy.
Problems I see coming from Tuesday’s rate cut: Foreigners who already had distaste for our bonds because of a falling U.S. currency will now face decreased interest rates on the bonds the U.S. sells to finance its debt. How will we finance our debt if our interest rates are falling?
Bernanke has clearly indicated he’s here to bail out our investors when times get tough, giving a false sense of security to investors. Finally, Bernanke, like Greenspan, has demonstrated that in times of difficulty the best idea is to inflate, inflate. Will we not pay the price for inflation down the road?
Instead of making investors pay for their bad choices, in my opinion, the Fed is demonstrating that it is here to bail out investors and consumers from the consequences of their speculation — an action I believe the U.S. economy will eventually pay for dearly.