The madness of the Fed’s pending 81 month run of zero interest rates comes down to an inflation subterfuge that has no logical or empirical grounding in real world economics. Essentially, the Keynesians who currently inhabit the Eccles Building have turned all of central banking’s anti-inflation history on its head, saying, instead, that there is not enough of it to create optimum economic growth and wealth; and, besides, the CPI is running below the 2% target—so prolonging the free money gravy train can’t do much harm.
Every part of that proposition is dead wrong. To wit, free money does immense harm by fueling rampant carry trade speculation; there is zero evidence that 2% inflation results in any more growth than 1% or even 0% inflation; and, as an empirical matter, there is plenty of inflation in the US economy and has been during the entire past 15 years of rampant money printing designed to stimulate more growth.
Still, real final sales in the US economy have grown at only a 1.8% rate since the year 2000, or by just half of the 3.5% rate recorded for the prior 46 years. But that downshift is not in any way attributable to inflation missing the allegedly optimum 2% target. In fact, during the last 15 years the CPI has increased at an average rate of exactly 2.18%.
So where’s the beef or rather the allegedly missing beef? Well, the monetary high priests hold that the PCE deflator, not the CPI, is the correct measure of inflation because it takes better account of changing consumer preferences or weighting shifts in the market basket of what people buy. That is, it captures their shifting to chicken, tuna or spam when they can’t afford steak.
Yet its hard to believe that the scant daylight shown in the chart below accounts for the drastic deterioration of economic growth during the last 15 years. In other words, we have had 2% inflation on the most commonly used measuring stick—-so what’s wrong with the ruler?