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June 22 2011  / Opinion Article

Fed Understatement - Defying Logic


"Some of these headwinds may be stronger and more persistent than we thought..."

Spoke Ben Bernanke in his comments today after presenting his latest take on the US economy. He went on to say “We don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting.”

Sometimes I am astounded by the comments from people in positions of power. I am not sure if they are too close to a situation to not be able to see it or if they fail to do any research of any kind. It is truly dumbfounding.

Almost every lay person knows the two main problems are unemployment and housing. Sure there are a lot of other problems, but there are always lots of problems. That is the nature of an economy. However until unemployment and housing improve there is no way the economy can "boom". Therefore doesn't it make sense that there is just anemic growth. Still I suppose anemic is better than no growth.

Meanwhile the world is drowning in a sea of debt. If Greece passes its austerity measures, it will basically pay the interest on its debt - that's all. The debt will remain. The US debt is so high that congress and/or the President will have to act. The problem is 2012 is an election year and no President will want to do anything that could even remotely hurt a re-election. That means nothing will happen until 2013.

Overall the global recovery from the credit crisis is basically anemic at best. Japan started to see some growth and then was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The effects of this event will be wide spread for months if not more than a year or two. China has been raising interest rates trying to cool their economy. The Middle East has erupted as violence has spread from country to country as protests against decades of abuse by dictators and those in positions of power gain momentum.

Meanwhile the Fed Chairman is unsure why the pace of growth is slow? This pronouncement on the part of the Federal Reserve truly defies logic. Right now the unemployment rate in the US is probably closer to 12 or 15 percent and has remained pretty steady at this level since the credit crisis. Despite everything the Fed has done there has really been no change in unemployment, and housing in general continues to decline. Yet the trillions spent have certainly pushed prices of commodities to the point where food costs are at the highest level since the UN Food and Agriculture Organization started monitoring food prices in 1990. The World Bank estimates that recent food-price increases have driven an additional 44 million people in developing countries into poverty and that is just developing countries! Millions are on food stamps in the US alone. It is now estimated that 3 billion people or almost half of the world's population are suffering from chronic hunger. Meanwhile in developed nations, the price of transportation and commuting to work is almost prohibitive for an enormous number of families.


When the credit crisis hit I commented that I felt it could take decades for the economy of the US and other world powers to recover. In the future when historians and economists look at the credit crisis and the aftermath it will be interesting to see if the quantitative easing and all the bailouts actually contributed to not just inflation but may be the cause of another recession, which may see the rise of something worse than inflation - stagflation.  


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