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Response to annabanana (Reply #4)

Wed Oct 30, 2013, 07:26 AM

6. Quantitative Easing (QE) is the Monetarist alternative to just printing money.

In the 20th Century, central banks used to stimulate the economy during recessions by inflating the money supply with extra currency. That put more dollars into circulation, which stimulated consumption. However, that approach risked devaluation of the currency and hyper-inflation.

Today, instead, the Fed lowers interest rates to a point where it is actually cheaper (and more profitable) for the commercial banks to borrow money than to hold onto other assets. The banks use those assets (corporate bonds, securitized mortgages and loans) as collateral to borrow dollars or buy government bonds (which can be swapped for cash on the multi-trillion Dollar Repo market).

QE is a variation on the strategy of zero or negative real interest rate financial stimulus applied in Japan after the collapse of its commercial real estate bubble in 1991 that has allowed the Japanese economy to keep limping along on export earnings despite the loss in domestic speculative market values.

Because the system operates by keeping interest rates (the cost of borrowing) lower than inflation, the Fed's key policy is always to keep consumer demand depressed below the bank's demand for money. "Too much" consumer spending can lead to demand inflation, which would reduce the profit margin for the banks (if interest rates are kept low). Therefore, we see that the Fed's actual policy is austerity for consumers to depress demand at the bottom in order to sustain profitability at the top - the result is the jobless recovery and declining purchasing power for the middle-class, meanwhile the financial markets and bank sector profits reach record highs, all of which are quite intentional outcomes of QE programs.

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