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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Janet Yellen's bear market

Just two weeks into the year the stock market is off to its worst beginning in history. One suspects that in due course Obama will read about it in the newspapers and dismiss public concerns as overblown and partisan driven. Yes, with Fed chair Janet Yellen at the helm the nation has nothing to fear but fear itself along with gun violence, campus rape, climate change and Islamophobia.
Janice Yellen is probably no worse than anyone else who has chaired the Fed. She is following the policy begun by gentle Ben Bernanke of keeping interest rates ridiculously low. Her sole action, after almost 2 years on the job, was raising the prime interest rate 1/4 of one percent and now half of Wall Street thinks she got that wrong. What would an incompetent Fed chair have done? Loaded up on Powerball tickets? In all seriousness, if Ms Yellen were to die and her death was not reported in the media would it make any difference to the economy? "By god if Janet Yellen had been alive interest rates would be at 0.5% by now. Love her or hate her that bitch was decisive."
Up until 2009 the stock market was outside the purview of government. The SEC attempted to regulate trading when its lawyers could pry themselves away from online porn but for the most part it was left alone. With Bernanke the Federal Reserve embarked on an unprecedented scheme to create wealth by inflating the value of securities. There can be no other explanation. If that was not the Fed's intention in the beginning it could surely have seen the results after a few months. Money that would have been paid to savers in their passbook accounts and cd's was redirected to create an asset bubble in securities. Now that wealth is about to be destroyed by a bear market. Put another way a bear market signifies a failed Fed policy.
Occupy Wall Street got some of it right but lacked the brain power to manage lunch money. To be sure government operates to the advantage of the 1% but there have been some benefits to the consumer. Lower interest rates have allowed a reduction in credit card debt. Cell phone purchase plans from the carriers would never work at a 6% prime and oil and gas drilling were financed by low interest bonds which begot lower fuel prices which some say adds to the problem. Hell of a mess you got there Mr. President. Those of us who still harbor a Puritanical ethic may get a bit queasy if the market continues to drop. If there is no such thing as a free lunch and we have already eaten that lunch what happens? Is there a price to pay? As many pointed out at the time it began its quantitative easing the Fed was in unknown territory. Will the consequences be something like we and the Fed have never known?

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