Monday, November 14, 2016

Some light Fed talk, and introducing Steve Bannon

I had hoped to speak a bit more about Donald Trump and the Fed today, but in reality we're just going to have to wait to see what moves he makes as President.  The odds that Trump defers to the judgment of the Fed are good, which should disappoint libertarians but be reassuring to most everyone else.

There is speculation that Trump's infrastructure plan will in fact be inflationary, which would be good for wages and employment, though obviously would provide some sticker shock to the consumer.  In these conditions, the Fed could probably afford to raise rates with little to no political cost to the Trump administration.  Should inflation fail to materialize, and economic growth remain tepid, Trump will have to resist the goldbugs and inflation hawks in his own party and try to keep the punch bowl out for the party. You'd think resisting the hardliners would be the salient move on his part, but I think Trump has done a good job of providing the unexpected so far, so who knows?

There is a lot of general misunderstanding about the Fed, and a lack of appreciation for why we have it in the first place.  Those who wish to abolish the Fed and replace our current fiat dollar with a gold-backed dollar have a lot of explaining to do as how we would handle numerous depressions and panics without the modern Fed.  I think many "creative destruction" types might welcome these economic events as natural and ultimately beneficial, but people with day jobs, or people seeking day jobs, may beg to differ.

(Not to veer off-topic, but for a top-flight, highly entertaining and informative look at the moves of the Fed through the turbulent 70s and through the major recession of the late 70s/early 80s, I cannot recommend Secrets of the Temple highly enough.  It's a long read, but so are the Harry Potter books and everyone on earth seems to have read those except for me.)

While we await more substantial events, Trump began to roll out his staff: the fairly standard, by Washington terms, Reince Preibus for Chief of Staff, and the more volatile alleged anti-Semite Steve Bannon for his "chief counselor".  This collection of Breitbart headlines makes for interesting reading.  Again, we'll have to see how much of this turns out to be hot air rather than the basis for policy, but it's easy to understand why people might be a little upset.  In any event, it's just good politics to have an attack dog on your staff - it allows you to keep your hands clean while the dog does the dirty work.

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