Wall Street loved the Federal Reserve’s quarter-point interest hike Wednesday, soaring 500 points on the news. That’s a clear signal that Fed chief Jerome Powell isn’t doing enough to fight inflation.
Yes, it was the first hike since 2018, but inflation’s now at four-decade highs of at least 8% and certain to soar more (likely above 10%) in the wake of Putin’s war and President Biden’s utter refusal to end his war on US fossil-fuel production, which has been a key driver of rising costs from the day he took office.
Crucially, the national debt has risen $3 trillion since COVID hit, first to fund bipartisan relief and stimulus efforts as the pandemic slammed the economy — but then to fund $2 trillion in purely partisan (and highly inflationary) Democratic wish-list programs just weeks after Biden took office.
And Powell and his merry band have acquiesced, allowing the money supply to grow more than 30%, guaranteeing major price hikes as insane amounts of dollars chase available goods. And even as inflation began to hit hard earlier this year, he joined in the White House’s “it’s only transitory” happy talk.
Now America’s headed back to the 1970s, with labor demanding major pay hikes to cover the bite inflation takes from paychecks, raising employers’ costs so they have to charge more; rinse and repeat.
Breaking that cycle requires a serious shock — not a few carefully-spaced quarter-point increases. If the markets don’t scream over a rate hike, it’s not enough.
And addressing the root cause of cancerous money-supply growth requires a loud and credible commitment to reducing the Fed’s own balance sheet, which was too large even pre-COVID because Powell never fully unwound the positions taken during the crisis before that, the 2008 mortgage meltdown.
Of course, it’d help if President Biden signaled clear support for the Fed getting tough. He should, since inflation hits by far the hardest the lower-income working folks the prez insists he cares about. But it’s the Fed chief’s duty to act, either way.
The longer the Fed waits, the more bitter the medicine Powell or some successor will have to take.