Why Prices Have Gone Up
Central bank “stimulus” is a nonsensical policy approach which caused prices to surge over the last two years. Look at the charts below:
The Fed’s balance sheet is currently at $8.9 trillion:
Since January 2020 it has increased by nearly $5,000,000,000,000, meaning the central bank created 5 trillion dollars so the world could “buy more stuff.” The $8.9 trillion balance is not money in the Fed’s bank account; rather, entities such as large banks and financial institutions owe this money to the Fed (i.e., accounts receivable). Typically, the new money raises the prices of stocks, bonds and real estate first.
Also consider M1 and M2, as they are the most commonly used measures of the money supply.
The above is the M1 money supply, currently at $20.6 trillion. Part of the large spike is due to a revision of the definition of M1 occurring in May 2020. However, since then, M1 increased by over $4 trillion dollars, still a large amount.
From January 2020, the M2 money supply increased by over $6 trillion, per below:
Included in these trillions of newly created dollars are various Fed/Government programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, which has forgiven over $700 billion of “loans” to business owners. As I wrote in April of 2020, they were literally “paying people not to work.”
There were also several stimulus check programs congress approved that approached $1 trillion.
It cannot be stressed enough, these trillions of dollars were created “out of thin air,” and given to people across the country. A large portion of the money went into the traditional inflationary channels such as big Wall Street firms to inflate asset prices, but several trillions of new dollars also went to pay individuals on Main Street. The money received by individuals could have been spent anywhere: crypto, gold, guns, gambling, drugs, alcohol, eating out at restaurants, clothes, or on Austrian economic books.
The thought of receiving “free money” from the government may initially sound appealing. But eventually the money mirage stops and society discovers these government giveaway programs carry grave consequences such as currency debasement, and therefore, more poverty. Ironic because the stated aim of these policies is to help society; yet the result is the exact opposite.
The COVID monetary relief schemes couldn't have been more poorly timed as large swaths of the economy were shut down in 2020. Imagine the unsurprising result: increasing the money supply (via stimulus checks) increases the cash balance for millions of people, enticing recipients to spend more money. But shutting down the economy decreases the amount of goods available to purchase. In such a world, prices invariably rise.
Removing the closure of the economy from the equation, the problem with central bank stimulus still exists. If the government gives $1,000 to enough people, this new money enters the economy, increasing demand for goods. One of the many factors mainstream economists fail to include in their models are the stages of production. In the real world, production takes time. It is not instantaneous. It also carries a cost. Even if the economy were running “smoothly,” entrepreneurs could not automatically increase the supply of goods to meet the new (monetary induced) demand. To increase production, they’d have to incur more upfront costs, drawing upon savings, credit or obtaining alternative financing methods.
Shutting down the economy while giving stimulus checks only added gasoline to the dumpster fire. Forget about Trump or Biden. The Powell era of central banking must stand as one of the worst, if not the absolute worst, eras of American economic history. Increasing a nation’s money supply to stimulate demand historically impoverishes nations. Yet, that is precisely what they did.