Seven Questions for Fed Chair Nominee 'Calamity Janet' Yellen
Janet Yellen will be our new Fed chair in 2014, replacing the departing Ben Bernanke.
Let me just start by saying that I have never had any dealings with Janet Yellen, nor do I know anyone who has. My conclusions, therefore, are based on her philosophies more than anything else. It is one’s viewpoints that, to me, trump all other considerations when it comes to deciding who should run the Fed. Past mistakes in our economic history can often be traced to the fact that many people make their decisions based on comfort levels, not necessary change. Janet is comfortable to the 1% crowd.
Janet may be the funniest and smartest woman in town. She may be able to rapid-fire facts and figures in a way that would make a Jeopardy champion envious. She may even be able to bake chocolate chip cookies that would rival Hillary Clinton's, but that can’t make up for her underlying philosophical beliefs. Janet Yellen is a Keynesian.
As you may have learned from observing Keynesians in the wild, they haven’t met a stimulus program they didn’t like. It isn’t their lack of raw intellect but, rather, their approach to dealing with financial problems that I philosophically oppose. Economics is not a science, but it pretends to be one, at least from a Keynesian’s point of view. Keynesians, by their very nature, are arrogant enough to believe that they alone know the magic formula that can be used to improve the economy. Do a little of this, do a little of that, and presto, everything is better. The truth is that markets are emotionally driven, with variable responses, and therefore can’t be accurately modeled as can boiling or freezing water.
As we have seen over the last 32 years, the Fed’s response to almost any problem has been to lower rates. When the Internet bubble was threatening the economy, their solution was to do nothing. When the housing bubble formed due to low interest rates and lax lending oversight, again they did nothing. But when the economy shows signs of slowing, they can always be counted on to "juice the system" by lowering rates.
It would actually be funny if we weren’t talking about people's lives, but the Fed is a one-trick pony that resorts to solutions that effectively enrich the rich and punish the masses. Check out a chart of inflation-adjusted mean household incomes since 1971, the year we went off the gold standard. Debts began to grow and wages essentially remained stagnant. Some fix.
Lucky for Janet that I’m not sitting on the committee looking to approve her nomination. I’d have a few questions for her that, if answered honestly, I believe would open the country’s eyes to the reality of what we’re dealing with here:
Janet: During your career there have been two major bubbles. If you knew about them, and I assume you did because you’re one of the top economists, why didn’t you do anything to stop them?
Janet: Are you in favor of transparency (and I don’t mean Obama’s definition) or continued Fed secrecy?
Janet: Will you support a full and complete audit of the Fed (including Ft. Knox) and, if not, will you explain why the American people can’t be told the real truth as to what is going on?
Janet: Considering how large our debts have grown, can you explain how it is possible to exit the current quantitative easing program without crushing the stock and bond markets?
Janet: How is the American public safer if the “too big to fail" banks are even bigger after these last five years?
Janet: Would you explain what will happen to the economy and the federal budget deficit if rates move up to where they were in 2006, before the crisis?
Janet: Can you explain to the people of our fine country how large the derivative exposure is to the American taxpayer?
I find myself in agreement with ex-Reagan budget director David Stockman’s belief that Janet Yellen has "no clue how to wean Wall Street from its pathetic addiction to easy money." The idea that a 16-trillion-dollar economy can be managed by a group of twelve people brainwashed in the Keynesian “religion” suggests that the idea that we can ever break ourselves from continued stimulus is a mirage.
Clearly we are in Depression 2.0. It is not as serious as the Great Depression, but it is much worse than any other recession since. The hopeium talk from many government officials like Janet Yellen will more than likely continue under her watch, misdirecting the public from comprehending what the true risks are in the financial system for fear of losing consumer confidence. When I listen to Ben Bernanke speak, I can’t help but think of Baghdad Bob. With Janet Yellen, I’ll probably be picturing Baghdad Bob in a dress.
Sure, there are fancy graphs and pie charts that say things are not so bad, but as you look around the country, it should be clear that things are NOT getting better for the bottom 95%. This is the percentage of those who have seen their incomes fall and not recover from the calamity of the past five years. This is the group that does not have access to the leveraging powers of quantitative easing. They are the people who make the vast majority of their income off their labor and not their capital, and for them things are not getting better.
Under Janet’s watch we now have more Americans on disability than the entire population of Greece. There are now more Americans on food stamps than the entire country of Spain. We would probably be seeing 1930s food lines on the corners if it weren’t hidden from the general public's view through EBT cards (take your family over to a Walmart at midnight on the first of each month and see for yourself). We’re experiencing an 18-year low in homeownership combined with a U6 unemployment level above 13%. This is not a recovery, despite the continuous “green shoots” propaganda. Janet looks like she is even more dovish than outgoing Fed chair Ben Bernanke, so although the Fed may cut back on "juicing," I don’t believe it will stop anytime soon.
Calamity Janet will probably bring us more of the same policies we have experienced during the past three decades. More spin, more talking points, more hopeium from the emperor without clothes, with continued “fiscal juice” on the side. After five years, with the re-inflation of old bubbles in real estate and stocks, and now inflation of the values of junk bonds and treasuries, one wonders who the Fed is really looking out for. I don’t know about you, but it looks more like the group that is paying record prices for artwork, diamonds, and penthouses is getting the better end of the deal. With that said, my prognosis for Janet’s term will be business as usual and—in the worlds of Buzz Lightyear—continued quantitative easing “to infinity and beyond."