Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unpublished Letters to the Financial Times and the New York Times

Frederick Sheehan is the author of Panderer to Power: The Untold Story of How Alan Greenspan Enriched Wall Street and Left a Legacy of Recession (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

To the Financial Times, October 7, 2010:

Dear Sirs,

It is scandalous that you continue to give Alan Greenspan a forum ["Fear undermines American economy," FT, October 6, 2010]. He prattles on in his successful effort at rehabilitation by writing and speaking with the imprimatur of the Financial Times, the Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations and other institutions that should have no truck with the man most responsible for the financial ravages inflicted on The American people, and, indeed on the rest of the world.

To the Financial Times, October 13, 2010

Dear Sirs,

Edwin Truman, regarded as the wisest staffer during his time at the Fed, argued for the U.S. Treasury to sell the country's gold stock. ["Time to Unlock Fort Knox and Sell the Bullion" FT, October 13, 2010]. Truman rebuts the common argument for the gold stock to be held as a "rainy day precaution" with a question: "But after the recent economic and financial crisis and with the prospect of misery for several more years, how much more rain must pour before the US acts?"

In the Walt Disney movie Aladdin, the wise Blue Genie states: "You'd be surprised what you can live through".

It's a shame Mickey Mouse is not running the Fed. On second thought, he already is.

To the New York Times, October 15, 2010

Dear Sirs:

In "The Next Bubble," [editorial: October 13, 2010] you rue the "large inflows of capital" that "complicate macroeconomic management" of emerging economies. You identify the deadly consequences: These flows "promote fast credit expansion - which can cause inflation, inflate asset bubbles, and usually leave a pile of bad loans."

Here, you have stated matters of fact. But, you then write, there "is little policy makers in the rich world can do to stop these flows." There is everything the policy makers in the rich world ("formerly rich" -?) can do to stop these flows. We simply don't want to do what needs to be done; that is a different matter. The heart of the problem lies with the enormous creation of money and credit, most conspicuously in the United States, and which the Federal Reserve largely controls, that ricochets around the world and leads to such ruin.

The solution to this problem, both at home and abroad, is for the Federal Reserve to reduce the supply of money and credit. Your economic writer, Paul Krugman, wants the Federal Reserve to increase the supply of money and credit by several trillion dollars. Obviously, this will cause even greater "inflation, asset bubbles, and pile of bad loans" than those that are asphyxiating us today.

Leadership is not easy. You must choose your poison: Save the world or publish Krugman.

To the Financial Times, October 25, 2010

Dear Sirs,

Frederic Mishkin has made a useful suggestion in "The Fed must adopt an inflation target," [Financial Times, October 25, 2010]. He has not always been so radiant.

In 2006, when he served as adviser to the Icelandic government, Mishkin gave the green light to the country's banking system, claiming, "financial fragility is currently not a problem, and the likelihood of a financial meltdown is low." In 2007, Federal Reserve Governor Mishkin stated: "To begin with, the bursting of asset price bubbles often does not lead to financial instability....There are even stronger reasons to believe that a bursting of a bubble in house prices is unlikely to produce financial instability."

In this morning's Financial Times, Mishkin, the current A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics at Columbia University, and, co-author with Ben S. Bernanke of the text Inflation Targeting, writes that the Federal Reserve should adopt "a specific numerical inflation objective." The pen pal of the Federal Reserve chairman thinks 2% is the rate to hit.

In 1957, an Ivy League economics professor on the make (Sumner Slichter) charmed the Senate by claiming the United States needed 2% inflation. Federal Reserve Chairman William McChesney Martin told the senators that such a plot would place the heaviest burden on those who could not protect the value of their income or savings. Those "savings in their old age would tend to be the slick and clever rather than the hard-working and thrifty."

This may have been the best market prediction of the past half-century.

The advantage of Mishkin's proposal will be to put the long-running Fed policy of impoverishing the American people into writing. It will be official, as follows:

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), in its September 21, 2010 press release, stated: "The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent..." As a consequence, the average bank passbook savings rate in the U.S. is 0.09% (, September, 21, 2010).

The adoption of Mishkin's 2% numerical inflation objective will be an official confiscation of Americans' savings, at an annual 2% rate. Once this policy is in writing, the Federal Open Market Committee will be as guilty of robbery as Willie Sutton and FOMC members can be prosecuted and sentenced with the same determination and result.