There Was a Fed Chairman Who Swallowed a Fly
While it’s true that history repeats itself, the patterns should always be separated by a generation or two to keep things respectable. Unfortunately, in today’s economic world, it seems the cycle can be counted in months.
On July 24, 2009, just as the Federal Reserve unleashed its first quantitative easing campaign (now called “QE1” – an echo of the reclassification of the Great War after still more destructive subsequent developments), Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal to soothe growing concerns about excess liquidity. He assured the public that the Fed had an “exit strategy.”
In a response entitled “No Exit for Ben”, I called the Chairman’s bluff. I argued that the Fed had no exit strategy, and that Bernanke was trying to fool the market into believing that quantitative easing was not debt monetization.
Just 16 months later, Bernanke is at it again, penning another op-ed to defend his second round of QE. Except this time, instead of feigning an exit strategy, he just outlines a path to expand the program in perpetuity.
In recent months, Fed economists have taken great pains to tell us how much better off the economy is now than it was in the first half of 2009. Given this supposed good news, what prompted the current turnaround in policy? Could it be, perhaps, that perpetual easing was the policy all along?