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Home | Wire | What Has QE Wrought?

What Has QE Wrought?

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Tags Money and Banking

01/12/2018

[Editor's Note: Watch Ron Paul deliver this Special Report here.​]

The Great Recession began in 2007. It didn’t take long for the money managers to recognize its severity, and that a little tinkering with interest rates would not suffice in dealing with the economic downturn. In Dec. 2008, the first of four Quantitative Easing programs began which did not end until Dec. 18, 2013. Some very serious consequences of this policy of unprecedented credit creation have set the stage for a major monetary reform of the fiat dollar system. The dollar’s status as the reserve currency of the world will continue to be undermined. This is not a minor matter. As our financial system unravels, the seriousness of it will become evident to all, as the need to pay for our extravagance becomes obvious. This will make the country much poorer, though the elite class that manages such affairs will suffer the least.

By the time the QE’s ended, the Central banks of the world had increased their balance sheet by $8.3 trillion, with only $2.1 trillion worth of GDP growth to show for it. This left $6.2 trillion of excess liquidity in the banking system that did not go where the economic planners had hoped. Central banks now own $9.7 trillion of negative interest yielding bonds. The financial system has been left with a bubble mania, financed by artificial credit and unsustainable debt. The national debt in 2007 was $8.9 trillion; today it’s $20.5 trillion. Rising interest rates will come and that will be deadly for the economy and the Federal budget.

This inflationary policy is generated by the belief that there is no benefit in allowing the needed economic correction to the problems generated by the Fed to occur. The correction is what the market requires, not the resumption and acceleration of the dangerous inflationary policy that caused the bubble economy. It’s like giving a case of beer to an alcoholic to calm his nerves as he attempts to stop drinking. It should not surprise anyone that perpetuating a problem won’t solve the problem.

The obsession with a QE monetary policy has created a bubble economy of enormous size which one day will burst. The warning signs are everywhere, yet ignored. Political demands control policy; not common sense or sound economics. All major decisions are bipartisan and guarantee a continuation of current spending, taxing, inflationism, welfarism, and warfarism until the giant bubble bursts.

All recessions since the Great Depression were essentially caused by the Fed’s mismanagement of monetary policy and subsequently resolved by it with renewed vigor in monetary mischief by rigging interest rates and the money supply. This off and on process temporarily aided the economy, but structural defects multiplied. Debt accumulation, mal-investments, unfunded liabilities, welfare benefits, militarism, constant wars, uncontrolled government growth, and systematic attacks on our liberties, have continued unabated.

The people sense that a major crisis is fast approaching. Today’s Super Bubble economy, promulgated by the QE’s, must resolve itself. A continued program of spending and inflation, while financing even bigger government, will only exacerbate the social chaos that has already started. That is to be expected in a bankrupt nation. And the US is bankrupt! Eventually our dollar and credit will weaken, prohibiting us from living off others or our future generations.

Social conflict will add to the financial difficulties caused by the QE dangerous experiment. Trillions of new dollars created in the last decade is unprecedented and the full consequence of this policy is yet to be discounted. My concern is that it will be much more serious than most expect and few will be prepared to offer a solution -- other than to demand more government even if it’s at the expense of liberty, peace, and prosperity.

Prosperity, built on debt, inflation, and false government promises, is illusionary and can disappear quickly. It will be necessary that the people learn, or relearn, that debt is not wealth, paper is not money, free stuff is not justice, war is not peace, and government coercion is not liberty. Signs of social chaos are readily apparent and are a predictable consequence of the economic distortions created by the excesses of the QE bubble.

Inequitable wealth distribution becomes a problem in an economy regulated by Federal Reserve mismanagement. The wealthy do get wealthier and the poor do get poorer when a currency is debased, with the middle class suffering the most. The ability of the special interests to influence legislation to benefit from the distribution of newly created money, is legendary. Think: “military industrial complex,” “free welfare benefits,” “bank bailouts,” and early access to an inflated currency. All these items play a significant role in the accelerating disparity of wealth distribution between the top 10 percent and rest of the people. These problems will worsen and fuel social conflicts and anger.

The inequity, not being fully understood, causes those who feel cheated to become angry and to start thinking about the false promises of the Socialists. This, along with the large number of economic Marxists who have inundated our government-run colleges, presents a problem that feeds into the anger. It doesn’t take a lot of searching to witness the anger in action on the campuses, as expressed by both students and faculties.

This conflict encourages envy and greed to flourish and justified with a sense of moral indignation. The greater the chaos, the easier it is for the Marxists to join in the fray and promote hate and destruction of cultural and traditional norms. It’s essential that the economic distortions, that arrived with the QE’s, as part of Keynesian economic planning, will need corrected to restore long- term economic growth. The full cost of decades of deficit spending must be paid for one way or another.

The problem of economic ignorance and misplaced good intentions will need to be addressed in order to steer a course that rejects the notion that unlimited government spending can be financed by the dangerous QE type of monetary inflation. This, sadly, will not be considered until the super bubble bursts and it becomes evident that the correction that has been avoided so far has become a necessity.

It is my opinion that the QE bubble is bigger than the Housing Bubble and the Dot Com Bubble combined. It is no easy task to correct for all the mal-investments and excessive debt and provide for all the unfunded liabilities. In the process of paying the piper, the country is destined to become much poorer, especially since a miraculous increase in productivity is unlikely in spite of the hoped-for benefits from the recently passed tax law. Economic, psychological and political pressure will prevent the changes in policy needed to deal with the huge complicated mess that the QE’s have generated. What we are experiencing is the climactic end of gigantic experiment with a fiat currency inflation, the size of which was never tried before.

The Fed has followed a deliberate policy of monetary debasement from the time it was sanctioned in 1913. Though there was a steady erosion of the dollar’s value throughout the 20th Century, a link to gold was maintained until the closing of the gold window by Nixon in 1971. A total fiat currency - the dollar - was unleashed on the world with this event, and the US became the biggest beneficiary by assuming the role of managing the world reserve currency. For decades this well served America’s interests since it was equivalent to the world permitting us to create as much “gold” as we wanted. The system was totally fraudulent since it was imaginary money and we owned the printing press. Why should anyone be surprised at the results of what excessive money creation has caused? Printing fiat currency and expanding the money supply has nothing to do with creating wealth. This process is more likely to destroy wealth than create it. The QE programs have undermined sound economic policy and will continue to do so as the consequences of the massive monetary expansion become more evident with the bursting of the bubble economy.

Instead of allowing the correction to run its course, the economic planners continue to pursue the goal of invigorating a failed experiment. Keynesianism created the monster crisis that we’re facing and yet the platitudes pushed by both political parties fail to address the subject of huge deficits and massive spending. This process can’t be stopped as long as the politicians and the special interests persistently and strongly oppose restricting the current role of our government. A compliant citizenry that fails to grasp the importance of liberty and instead accepts dependency on government as a substitute for self-reliance, guarantees that the bursting of the QE Bubble will generate a much more serious crisis than it need be.

What’s involved in the bubble? Plenty! Almost everything to some degree. It is difficult for an economy to operate smoothly without a sound currency to measure value when goods and services are transferred from one entity to another. A definable medium of exchange is crucial to facilitate the market. Ever since direct bartering was phased-out more than three thousand years ago, the choice of the marketplace for money has been something tangible. As the understanding of the nature of money developed, the items used for money were easily recognizable, devisable, long lasting, and definable. Early on, governments challenged the market choices, especially when gold and silver were chosen, and replaced them with a government monopoly control over the currency. The contest between the market’s desire for honest money and the government’s desire to solidify power by usurping the authority to debase the currency started early on and continues to this day.

Government’s monopoly over the creation of money is equivalent to counterfeiting and resulted from the fact that the people never liked to pay taxes for unnecessary wars and to provide benefits to the politicians and their friends. Though beneficial to the powerful few, the abuse and the inequitable distribution of wealth that resulted would inexorably stir anger and rebellion within the people, who demanded changes to the system.

It is true that nothing ever changes under the sun or with human nature. We today are approaching a political and economic crisis of enormous proportion as a consequence of this age-old phenomenon of abuse from a government financed by a modern-day monetary destruction of the economy with the QE’s dangerous experiment. It is more than a minor correction that is needed to deal with the huge excesses that today exists world-wide.

Many of the central planners in charge reassure us that the concern for a dangerous bubble existing is completely unfounded since the CPI is barely rising. Two points: 1) The CPI is rising faster than they will admit and 2) The CPI is not the tell-tale sign of a serious bubble forming. Many other bubbles and dislocations can exist as a consequence of creating trillions of dollars out of thin air. And there are quite a few:

  • The housing bubble is back along with subprime loans.
  • There’s an auto financing bubble encouraged by subprime loans for many customers.
  • The stock market is in a bubble waiting to be pricked.
  • The bond market is in a huge bubble as a result low or negative interest rates.
  • Wall Street has inflated expectations that America is quickly being “Made great again.”
  • Exaggerated trust exists in the dollar maintaining its reserve status for the foreseeable future.
  • The unwinding of the Fed’s balance sheet and a move toward market rates of interest is a long way off.
  • Deficit financing for the Military Industrial Complex will not be challenged before the QE bubble bursts.
  • Saving for a rainy day or to make a future purchase is not considered sound policy. Unlimited borrowing is.
  • Credit card debt is in a bubble.
  • Student loan debt is in a bubble.
  • Transfer payments to the dependent poor will never be cut. Instead, when the big bubble bursts these payments will skyrocket since the process will generate more poor.
  • The medical care spending bubble has created a huge mess with misallocation of resources, runaway cost, and poor care. Corporate medicine must end and be replaced by a free market.
  • Cultural Marxism’s influence on American college campuses is a dangerous “bubble.”
  • The dollar is in a bubble.
  • The unpayable pension systems: federal, state, county, city, involves trillions of dollars.


The unpayable debt bubble can only be held together by accelerating inflation and the liquidation of debt by currency debasement. This is a very dangerous economic and political solution that seems inevitable. The problem describes what happens to a bankrupt country refusing to live within its means. Instead of being reassured that things are going well because Wall Street is booming, it should be a warning sign that danger lies ahead and reveals the growing imbalance between rich and poor.

The bubble mentality of neocon war-mongering needs to end. The sooner the better. Sadly, it will only end after the dollar-driven bubble economy collapses. The foreign policy of militant interventionism needs to be extinguished. It’s a major source of debt and lost credibility for us, both of which undermines dollar hegemony. The bursting of the dollar bubble will not be a minor event. The adjustments required to restore economic prosperity and preserve liberty will be a major challenge to all freedom loving Americans.

The excesses of an economy based on debt, inflation, central planning, constant war, the military industrial complex, and crony capitalism, all contribute to a growing disparity of wealth between rich and poor. This type of command system is self-limited but eventually always fails. Though it takes a lot to kill a once robust economy, our political leaders have managed to set the stage for a major crisis, brought on by QE’s attempt to rescue it from the coming bankruptcy.

The problems we face today did not appear overnight. It took many decades to create the conditions of bankruptcy and the beginning of the end for the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. There have been many warning signs, dating all the way back to the origination of the Federal Reserve in 1913, and with the subsequent growth of central banking world-wide. The Bretton Woods Agreement in 1944 established the dollar as the reserve currency of the world with a watered-down version of the gold standard, and was destined to fail as it did in 1971. Noted free market economist, Henry Hazlitt, at the time of its inception, predicted that it would fail due to inflationary policies that the Fed would not be able to resist.

Throughout the 20th Century, the Fed created many recessions and depressions that were papered over with accelerating inflation and government deficit spending. It worked to some degree on the short run, but postponed the required payment for another day. Unfortunately that day has arrived, and the flawed policy of delaying the payment needed to keep the economy churning, is no longer working.

The replacement of the Bretton Woods arrangement with the fiat dollar standard in 1971 continued to benefit the US by it maintaining control over the world reserve currency. This arrangement permitted us to “export” our inflated dollars and buy cheap imported goods from overseas. This led to a structural imbalance in foreign trade with a hefty short-term benefit to us at the expense of a huge foreign debt. When the magnitude of this problem hit in 2007, the QE program of massive credit creation was initiated, which only compounded the problems already generated by zero and negative interest rates, along with astronomical budgetary deficits. More drugs for the addicted never solves their problem.

The search is now on for a solution to our financial time bomb, a foreign policy presenting great danger to the world, and the systematic attack on our liberties here at home. We’re beyond the point where more lies and deception will calm the anger. The wealth available for bribing the masses is quickly dwindling as the demands and expectations grow. The dollar is destined to go down in value, as it has been doing since 1971. We are getting weaker and poorer and other world governments are getting stronger and richer. The dollar this past year lost more than 10 percent.

There’s a lot of built-up resentment toward America for the privileged financial position that it has enjoyed for decades, while it flaunted its “exceptionalism,” backed by a militant foreign policy. This arrangement is ending and the process will not go smoothly. Though the consequences of QE are all around us, there’s little else the planners will consider. A repeat of this failed effort will be tried again-with worse results. Cutting spending, reining in the Fed, and strictly limiting the role of government, can only be achieved in the distant future after the current crony-capitalism and welfare state self-destructs. Preparing for that day is the job for all who desire to live in a free society. If current authoritarian policies are left unchecked, our economic conditions will deteriorate and true freedom will only be a memory.

There’s a growing number of people becoming aware of the significance of the Fed’s disastrous monetary policy and the utter silliness of QE. Since few people expect the privileged class to promote sound money, many outside of government are seeking a system of money that protects wealth rather than destroys it.

Historically, money originated in the marketplace as a tangible asset. The choice for thousands of years has been the precious metals, especially gold. Governments, notoriously, have taken over monopoly control of the monetary systems and used them to benefit the government over the people. Because of the abuse of the currency over the centuries, a return to gold was frequently needed to restore order and confidence in the money. For this reason, I have been a champion of competing currencies to allow the people to make the choice about the monetary unit, as long as no fraud was involved. A government-designed currency should also be free of fraud. This means no fiat currency and no legal tender laws. A tangible currency developed in the market, such as gold or silver, should not be subject to sales or capital gains taxes.

The race is now on to find an alternative to our current dollar system in order to escape from the Federal Reserve run banking system. Crypto-currencies have been offered as an alternative with much vigor. By Jan. 3, 2018 their total capitalization was more than $700 billion with 97 percent of that achieved in less than a year. It has been declared a “mania” by many. This type of price appreciation would not have occurred without the funds the QE’s generated by the Federal Reserve. The money managers have been in a quandary for the past 10 years because the inflated money supply and the very low interest rates did not generate the economic growth they wished for. Now it’s going into numerous bubbles like stocks, bonds, housing, student debt, and crypto-currencies. My view is that the entire economy is a huge bubble with sovereign debt being the most dangerous.

Though currently, there is a lackadaisical interest in gold compared to crypto-currencies, I believe gold is in the early stage of the third major bull market since 1971, which started two years ago when gold was $1050/oz. If history is of any benefit, gold will be used in the coming monetary reform, whether it’s accomplished by the government or the market. But if the choice of a monetary unit turns out not related to something tangible, it will prove to be a first in history. Just because our current money is now a total fiat dollar, it can’t be used to justify a market developed fiat currency. We must remember that the dollar was originally defined as a weight of silver or gold. The destructive nature of the monetary event of Aug. 15, 1971 was a consequence of our government refusing to maintain the dollar’s relationship to something tangible, thus making it a fiat currency. This explains why we’re in such a mess. A fiat currency developed in the market, won’t solve the current financial crisis the world faces.

A sound currency must have a fixed definition of a tangible item. Its value must be determined by free market pricing in exchange for goods and services. Bi-metallism, by fixing an ounce of gold to a certain number of ounces of silver was unworkable. Fixing the definition of the monetary unit is similar to fixing the exact length of a “yard or meter.” The “yard” can be used to measure any item you want and it’s crucial in all construction. Likewise, a currency with a fixed definition of a tangible item will facilitate all market transactions. A fiat currency without a precise definition by its very nature will fluctuate wildly and interfere with all economic calculations. This is why all fiat currencies are destructive and end badly. The dollar since 1971 has been a fiat currency and the mischief it has caused has been especially harmful and broad since it has served as the world reserve currency. The importance of this is evident when the US government is willing to exert military force against those who threaten to abandon the dollar in world trade.

All paper or fiat money self-destructs and has limited lifespans. Gold currencies last until governments debase them into a fiat currency. The fiat dollar today, for many nefarious reasons, is constantly being destroyed by counterfeiters posing as politicians and central bankers. The day is fast approaching when the fiat dollar standard will need a major overhaul. The age of “Quantitative Easing” is ending.

Conclusions

The trillions of dollars created by the QE program have not restored soundness to the economy. QE did not address the problems caused by a central bank manipulating interest rates, determining the money supply, continuing to monetize government debt, pursuing central planning, and depending on a very unstable fiat currency. Only true monetary reform can address these problems.

The economic and political clout that a central bank has in managing a fiat currency system is enormous. Without the government’s ability to create money out of thin air, the cost of financing needless wars and the welfare state would be prohibitive. This arrangement guarantees excessive government and a systematic abuse of liberty. The people lose; the special interests always win.

We’re at the point where another QE inflationary binge will not tide us over in the next economic downturn. We’re fast approaching the time when true monetary reform will be required to deal with the “sin” of living beyond our means. If that is not done, expect a long period of economic chaos, inner city violence, and political warfare.

Sometimes I’m asked why do I have to be so pessimistic. Actually, many more see me as being optimistic. Optimism comes with a willingness to acknowledge the truth and deal with it in a positive manner with policies that make sense. Accepting bad ideas that purport to provide unlimited free benefits to everyone, is a deception that ends in disappointment. Instead of helping the poor, welfare serves the interest of the wealthy and the bureaucrats. Refusing to change policy will only extend the bad consequences that come from the Federal Reserve’s atrocious mismanagement of monetary policy.

In medicine a correct diagnosis of a serious illness can be very depressing, but knowing that treatment is available is uplifting. Remaining in denial of a problem’s severity is a dangerous option. Knowledge and truth lead to optimism. In politics and economics, the only decision to be made is to decide whether or not the goal of peace and prosperity can be best achieved by more intrusive government or by promoting personal liberty.

If peace and prosperity are the goal, and flawed policies are identified, an understanding of what needs to be done should be greeted with applause. Fortunately the answers are not complex, and when discovered most agree that they are based on common sense.

The philosophy of liberty is based on the moral principle of non-aggression being applied to all individuals and governments. If individuals can’t steal or cheat, neither should the government. If individuals can’t harm or kill, neither should the government.

Unfortunately, throughout history it’s been government that has committed the greatest crimes of aggression against humanity. A modest beginning for us would be to rein in government initiated violence by rejecting the Federal Reserve’s authority to finance wars of aggression overseas and the welfare state at home.

The political chaos, as reflected by the mess in Washington, is an expected consequence of the last 100 years of our drift away from a limited government philosophy. There is now a growing interest in the cause of liberty as it becomes evident that the current system is financially and morally bankrupt. The intellectual groundwork has been laid for a free society, and with the disintegration of the current system there is room for hope that truth “will out” and a better world for peace and prosperity will be available to us.

Reprinted with permission. 

Dr. Ron Paul is a former member of Congress and Distinguished Counselor to the Mises Institute.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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