Janet Yellen’s last semi-annual testimony before Congress as Fed Chair has just concluded, and as usual it was filled long-winded platitudes, which were enough to make the blood of anyone actually listening to her slow-motion drawl, come to an instant boil.
For one, Yellen hypocrisy hit bitcoinian levels when she had the temerity to say that she is “very disturbed” about the trend toward rising inequality, noting that the central bank only has a “blunt tool” that can’t be used to target certain groups. She’s right: the “blunt tool”, also known as a money printer, is can – and has – been repeatedly used to target a certain group: the ultra wealthy, i.e., the 0.1%, those who as Credit Suisse showed two weeks ago, have never been wealthier.
And just to make sure all your blood has boiled over, Yellen added that the Fed is very focused on “very disturbing long-term trends” in inequality adding that “our own focus”” is on taking those trends and studying them… and making them bigger than ever she should have also added.
Demonstrating her extensive skills of pointing out the obvious, Yellen also said that “we’re suffering from slow productivity growth,” and there should be a focus on how that can be improved. It appears that the Fed is unaware that most employees spend several hours a day on Facebook, LinkedIn and SnapChat; it also appears that the Fed is unaware that most employers are aware of this, and is why there has been so little wage growth to “reward” this collapse in productivity.
Yellen had some advice: Congress and Trump administration “have a much wider set of tools” to address these urgent issues, which are “squarely in Congress’s court.” That would have been a more useful handoff about 9 years ago, which Bernanke could have made the same point instead of unleashing what has become a $15 trillion liquidity injecting between the world’s central banks.
If that wasn’t enough, Yellen’s hypocrisy then veered off into a tangent when she said that the central bank is concerned with “growth getting out of hand” and is committed to continuing to raise rates in a gradual manner. “We don’t want to cause a boom-bust condition in the economy,” Yellen told Congress.
While Yellen did not specifically commit to a December rate hike, her comments indicated that her views have not changed with her desire for the central bank to continue normalizing policy after years of historically high accommodation.
“We are not seeing undue inflationary pressure in the labor market, so our policy remains accommodative,” Yellen said. “But we do think it’s important to gradually move our policy rate toward what I’ll call a neutral level, which would be consistent with sustainably strong labor market conditions,” she said.
Yellen said the Fed does not want to stifle growth but feels strongly about keeping consistent with a labor market that is nearing full employment. “We want to do this gradually, because if we allow the economy to overheat, we could be faced with a situation where we might have to … raise rates and throw the economy into recession,” she said. “We don’t want to cause a boom-bust condition in the economy.”
But the punchline was when Yellen said she is also, drumroll, “concerned over the surging level of public debt.“
Yellen’s timely “concern” finally emerged as Congress is debating the passage of a tax cut bill which will cost around $1.5 trillion in new debt, and comes at a time when the CBO is already projecting a deficit of more than $1 trillion in the years ahead and with the total debt level at $20.6 trillion and rising. Yellen was asked about a proposal that would trigger tax hikes if economic goals are not met. Yellen did not specifically comment on the trigger plan but said Congress is right to be thinking about the future of the national debt.
“I would simply say that I am very worried about the sustainability of the U.S. debt trajectory,” Yellen said. “Our current debt-to-GDP ratio of about 75 percent is not frightening but it’s also not low.”
“It’s the type of thing that should keep people awake at night,” she added.
So let us get this straight: after nearly a decade of keeping rates at record low levels and directly monetizing all the deficit for Obama’s administration, Yellen is suddenly worried about the $20+ trillion in debt it has left the country with?
Apparently so. As even CNBC concedes, “the Fed has critics of its own, though, who say that the central bank helped balloon the debt through low interest rates kept in place since the financial crisis. The Fed kept its benchmark rate anchored near-zero for seven years, from December 2008 through December 2015. During that time, the national debt grew 77 percent.“
Incidentally, Yellen is referring to the following CBO forecast, which sees US federal debt rising to levels last seen around the time of World War II:
Which also begs the question: fine, people are finally being “kept up at night” over something we, and others, have long said is a catastrophe for the US (except of course for those occasional econo-idiots known as the Magic Money Tree fanatics, or MMTers). So what is the alternative? If Yellen is right and the endgame is a collapse in the US economy, it means the days of the dollar as a reserve currency are numbered, incidentally something else not just we, but Deutsche Bank has also said previously. Recall what DB’s Jim Reid warned in September:
Global central banks have facilitated these elevated asset prices. A long series of global financial problems have now been passed through all parts of the financial system with most of these problems stacked up and now resting with central banks and Governments. The buildup of debt that this has created has forced central banks to keep yields at ultra-low levels, thus raising the prices of a variety of other global assets.
We think the final break with precious metal currency systems from the early 1970s (after centuries of adhering to such regimes) and to a fiat currency world has encouraged budget deficits, rising debts, huge credit creation, ultra loose monetary policy, global build-up of imbalances, financial deregulation and more unstable markets.
And if that is indeed the case, it would suggest that Yellen is indirectly – and directly – recommending that her audience buy bitcoin, because it is not just the US which finds itself in a fiscal and monetary dead end, it is every other fiat economy (something DB’s Jim Reid warned about two months ago). As a result, the only viable monetary system in a world in which even central banks now warn the debt is “too damn high”, is one in which central banks themselves are disintermediated, i .e. a world in which cryptocurrencies rule.
Which, in retrospect, is not a surprise: back in July we got an amusing, if very vivid harbinger, of what may be coming.
With bitcoin now roughly 4 times higher at $11,000 and rising exponentially, those who did as the above photo suggested, can probably retire….