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Reply #9: here's that Chopper Ben article: Will the cure be worse than the disease? [View All]

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UpInArms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-21-08 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #4
9. here's that Chopper Ben article: Will the cure be worse than the disease?

(Fortune Magazine) -- The wobbly economy is overtaking Iraq as the issue weighing most heavily on the minds of America's voters. And Washington has noticed. The White House and Congress are almost certain to enact some kind of stimulus package. But like all such temporary, feel-good measures, it will generate a quick blip in growth that will quickly evaporate. In reality only one player has the power to do anything swift and decisive: the Federal Reserve. And its chairman, Ben Bernanke, has already made his intentions abundantly clear. Unfortunately, the cure he's prescribing may be worse than the disease.

Just how low will the economy go? There are conflicting signals. It's clear that the economy is losing steam. The plummeting value of America's houses is chilling consumer spending, layoffs are mounting, and banks and other creditors burned by the subprime crisis are far more reluctant to lend to everyone from small-business owners to private equity firms. But GDP increased by 4.9% in the third quarter, and economists estimate that GDP was still growing in the fourth quarter. Exports are strong, thanks to the weak dollar. The Fed did a brilliant job last summer by flooding the banks with money to prevent a full-scale credit crunch. Credit is far more expensive today, but it's also becoming more plentiful, as demonstrated by the falling rates on everything from LIBOR - the rate at which international banks lend to each other - to junk bonds. So while a recession is a real possibility, it's not inevitable - even the Fed is not forecasting one this year. And if we do get one, it may be brief and shallow, like the one we had in 2001 - with economic growth falling by perhaps half a percentage point for a couple of quarters, and unemployment rising from its current 5% to 5.5% or 6%.

By cutting rates early and often, Bernanke is acting as though a recession - even a mild one - would be a calamity that must be avoided at all costs. He has already reduced the Fed funds rate (which banks pay when they borrow from each other) by one point, to 4.25%, and promises to "take substantive additional action as needed to support growth," a pledge that Wall Street interprets as meaning at least another half-point cut at the Fed's meeting on Jan. 29, if not sooner.

Many on Wall Street back Bernanke. "I'll defend the Fed," says Bear Stearns chief economist David Malpass. "Part of the slowdown is the result of banks' tightening credit, and you help that by lowering the Fed funds rate." Mickey Levy of Bank of America agrees: "You need to lower rates to offset the drag on housing."

But Bernanke is setting the stage for an even bigger recession down the road. Just as the ultra-low rates of the early 2000s created many of the problems we're experiencing today, pumping money into the system would probably stoke inflation, forcing the Fed to hike rates sharply in the near future. "It's better to take a small recession and kill inflation immediately instead of facing high inflation and a really big recession later," says Carnegie Mellon economist Allan Meltzer.


and by the way - I got to bring home so extracurricular reading tonight from the office - it's the Fed's 4th quarter Economic review - with such tantalizing headlines as:

Rising Foreclosures in the United States: A Perfect Storm

Booms and Busts: The Case of Subprime Mortgages

Risks of Identity Theft: Can the Market Protect the Payment System?

and many more!

I am so excited - bedtime reading material!

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