October 14, 2008

Sickness Unto Debt

The Treasury bailout will only exacerbate red ink and inflation.

By Ron Paul

One of the burning questions regarding the recently passed bailout, and the one that almost no one has bothered to answer, is how the government intends to pay for it. Governments have three main methods by which they can raise funds: taxation, printing new money, and debt. As our $10 trillion national debt shows, the federal government has always enjoyed raising money by issuing new debt. Money is gained upfront, while the cost of repaying that debt is pushed onto future generations.

This method is especially favored today, since imposing $700 billion worth of taxes would lead to widespread public dissatisfaction. When the cost of all the recent bailouts plus the cost of all the new lending facilities the Federal Reserve has initiated are added together, we quickly reach a figure in the trillions of dollars. Even with the debt ceiling being raised to $11.3 trillion, the issuance of debt alone cannot begin to cover the cost of all the bailouts in which the government is engaged. Every indication is that the government will use both debt and inflation in its attempt to keep the economy running at full speed.
Debt financing has begun in earnest, as the national debt has increased $600 billion over the past three weeks, and most of that increase came even before the $700 billion bailout bill was passed. I fully expect that trend to continue in the near future and would not be surprised if we see another debt-limit increase slipped into another economic stimulus package that might be passed before the new year. Now that our foreign creditors are less willing to purchase our debt, what debt we cannot sell to foreigners will be monetized through the Federal Reserve, resulting in increased inflation.

In fact, money supply data for the narrowest measure, the adjusted monetary base, show an unprecedented increase, far higher than when Chairman Alan Greenspan attempted to reflate us out of trouble after the dot-com stock bubble burst. That intervention on Greenspan's part, pumping in liquidity and driving interest rates down, led to the real estate bubble, and Chairman Ben Bernanke unfortunately seems to be following the same script as his predecessor in resorting to credit creation and low interest rates. Even were this effort to succeed, it would only delay the inevitable. In order for the economy to return to normal, the Federal Reserve must cease the creation of new credit, overvalued assets must be allowed to fall in price, and malinvested resources must be allowed to liquidate and be put to use in more productive sectors.

The government's reaction to the credit crisis is based on the erroneous belief that the rate of economic growth over the past 10 to 15 years was the result of natural free-market processes, which is not the case. Rates of economic growth during the dot-com and real estate booms were clearly indicative of an overheated economy, and any attempt to try to stimulate the economy to return to such rapid growth will fail. Rather than allowing asset bubbles to pop and malinvested resources to liquidate, Federal Reserve monetary policy has attempted to pump more and more new money and credit into the system to try, in vain, to sustain the economic boom.

The monetary base jumping by such a large margin is an indicator that the Federal Reserve has not learned from its mistakes and is hoping to get out of this economic downturn by creating even more credit out of thin air. With such large increases in the monetary base and with banks legally able to hold zero reserves, the vaunted money multiplier effect could theoretically reach infinity. If our policymakers fail to come to their senses, there is a real danger that we could end up in a hyperinflationary crisis such as the ones that beset Germany in the 1920s and Argentina and Zimbabwe in more recent decades

The common measure of inflation, the consumer price index, has been so manipulated over the years that it cannot be trusted to be an accurate indicator of the true effect of inflation on people's pocketbooks. This is especially true of “core inflation,” which eliminates food and energy prices, the two staples that are most important to every American. When the CPI figure is computed using the original method of calculation, it comes out to more than 10 percent per year, which is a more accurate indicator of the inflation being felt by middle-class Americans.
For years, I pointed to the now-discontinued M3 money supply figure, the broadest measure of the total money supply, and remarked how its rate of growth far outpaced the officially reported rate of inflation. Since inflation is chronically underreported, I continue to view money supply figures as a more accurate indicator of the true direction of prices. Now that the monetary base has spiked so dramatically, the result will be seen over the next few months as this new credit works its way through the system, resulting in significantly higher inflation. Unfortunately, because M3 is no longer reported, the full effect of this inflation on the U.S. economy will go unreported in official statistics.


Anonymous said...

The Federal Reserve is Guilty of Helping Create the Global Financial Meltdown

Many investors and concerned citizens around the world are showing their outrage at what the Federal Reserve has done to the American economy with their easy money policies which caused the credit & real estate bubble and subsequent global financial meltdown.

Join the thousands who are signing & commenting on the Abolish the Federal Reserve Petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/fed/petition.html

Volksgeist said...

The world has been fighting banksters for hundreds of years. World wars have been fought for them. Do you think a petition is going to actually make a difference? I think you underestimate the scope of our current predicament.