Sen. Corker: Bernanke Is an Enabler of Financial Addiction

Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012 08:01 AM

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s loose monetary policies marked by rounds of liquidity injections act like a drug to which markets and the economy remain addicted, awaiting their next fix instead of embracing true reform, said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate banking committee.

Since the recession, Bernanke has cut interest rates and has rolled out two rounds of quantitative easing (QE), under which the Fed buys assets like Treasury holdings or mortgage-backed securities from banks, pumping the economy full of liquidity to push down borrowing costs and encourage investing, sending stock prices rising in the process.

QE1 injected $1.7 trillion worth of freshly printed money into the economy and then QE2 followed up with another $600 billion.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

Fed officials have said they cannot rule out QE3.

Critics say the stimulus tool hasn’t made lasting improvement to the economy and has planted the seeds for inflation down the road

“It would be helpful to have a Fed chairman who acted with a greater sense of humility about what monetary policy can achieve. Mr. Bernanke’s comfort with managing long-term interest rates and his unwillingness to stand up and say that there are limits to what monetary policy can accomplish is disturbing, to say the least. We need to do better,” Corker wrote in a Financial Times opinion piece.

Congress and the White House must make politically unpopular fiscal reforms to get the country moving again, such as spending cuts.

Meanwhile, loose monetary policies marked by low interest rates only harm those who live off the interest rates from their savings, which are failing to keep the pace with inflation these days.

“We need a Federal Reserve that will help, not hinder, our country’s vital transformation to an economy comprised of savers, and not wholly reliant on over-leveraged consumers,” Corker said, adding that investors will take greater risks in search of return amid times of rock-bottom interest rates, which threatens the stability of the financial system.

“We need a Fed that sees the risks of year after year of zero interest rates wherein investors must hunt for yield in asset classes to which they are not suited,” he wrote.

“We need a Fed that does not empower runaway spending by the federal government. And most importantly, we must demand a Fed that serves as a utility institution in our economy, not an enabler of some perverse financial system addiction.”

A CNNMoney survey of investment strategists found that 93 percent said they don’t think the Federal Reserve should announce more stimulus at its next meeting, while 77 percent of economists surveyed agreed.

While past easing measures have steered the country away from deflationary collapse and may have halted the advance of rising unemployment rates, more intervention would likely produce little benefits while further applying inflationary pressures down the road.

“Nobody likes it when the punch bowl is taken away, but the party has gone on too long,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management, according to CNNMoney.

“It’s time to get back to a normal economic recovery.”

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did


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