QE2: Savior or Suicide?

by: Ray

The long awaited decision was announced Wednesday by the Fed, $600B in fresh money printing followed by continued reinvestment of proceeds from its first round of easing. This equals about $900B in total QE by our monetary masters. Speculation is rampant in the media about its success or how it will be an epic failure. The funny thing is, no one really knows what will actually happen. Personally, I am still perplexed as to why they are doing it at all; it is stupid.

The Fed is also completely out of ammo which many have stated, myself included, and all they have is the printing press. I want to stress something here and you should pay attention, this whole QE thing is experimental and no country that has ever tried has succeeded. Therefore, I have a predetermined outcome, but at the end of the day you or I have zero idea if it will work. I will lay out a case for its failure based on what I know. I am sure many will disagree and that is fine, but in time one of us will be right.

The economy has a demand problem, not a liquidity problem. Over 2 years ago we had a massive liquidity problem which is why Lehman failed, but now the Fed has dumped trillions into the system along with the federal government. All of that money dumping ended the liquidity crisis and now banks, supposedly, have excess reserves just sitting at the Fed waiting to be loaned out to that sucker who wants to pay 15% interest on money the bank got for free in order to buy that new LED flat screen TV that is just calling his or her name. The problem is the sucker doesn’t want to buy that TV because he doesn’t know if he will have a job next week or is worried about retirement, etc.

We have a demand problem, not a money shortage. I say that with a grain of salt because money velocity is dropping which technically means there are dollar shortages. However, I contend that the dollar shortage is because people are paying off debt as opposed to simply saving their money somewhere (under the mattress?). Regardless of the reason, no one wants to buy big ticket items and I do not blame them. After all, we got here because of excess debt and no one wants to leverage up to buy senseless items. No amount of QE will change this. Sorry, but it won’t. Job security and rising wages will create demand, but that is not happening either. Demand is stuck where it is, weak.

The Fed knows this and they know QE will not change this, so why did they do it? I really do not know. Sure, everyone has their own reasons for it, but at the end of the day, it is all speculation. I know what they are trying to do, create wage inflation and inflation in general, which they will do eventually, but by their chosen path, QE, they are creating the worst possible outcome, inflation without wage inflation. Stop laughing, it can happen. How, you may ask, simple dollar devaluation is inflation, but dollar devaluation does not guarantee wage growth. The only way to get wage growth is through demand with inflation, what the Fed did will not do this. Frankly, everyone should be terrified of Mr. Bernanke and he should be punished for lying to Congress when he said he would not monetize the debt, he is.

I can rattle off all sorts of conspiracy theories as to why the Fed is doing QE, but they are too laughable to mention. I do think one thing makes sense though; it is a back door bailout of the banking system, again. There is a little issue I am sure you are familiar with, the foreclosure crisis, and this crisis is a huge, enormous, problem. If you are a bondholder, it is one thing to have a borrower default on the debt, the cash flow ends and you get to take the collateral, a home in this case, to recover your capital. However, this whole chain of custody issue, there is no legal remedy for it and all those pundits who claim that this is no big deal are either stupid or scared to admit the truth, means that there is no collateral to collect now. Essentially, the borrower can keep the house and screw the lender if the paperwork is messed up, how would you like to own a MBS now? Your bonds are worthless… or are they?

If there was fraud in the loan, as we are now seeing, the bondholder can put back the bond and be repaid their original capital. This is the problem that is starting to rear its ugly head, the put back, and it could be huge. Think about all the paper the banks would have to buy back and now think of all the synthetic derivatives that were written against that bond. What a mess. A big costly web of a mess. I do not know how big the problem can be, but I think part of the QE might help these banks by either allowing the bank to front run the bonds the Fed is buying or by infusing the bank with capital.

It doesn’t matter really, but I think that was one of the reasons for QE2. We have been told for over a year now how great things are now and we are in a recovery, so why do QE at all? We have inflation, it is not sky high, but it is there in the PPI and the CPI is still positive. If the CPI were negative I would say we have deflation, but it isn’t and at best we had disinflation which does not justify such a crazy move as monetizing almost a trillion dollars in paper. The Fed sees that no real recovery has happened and maybe that is the reason for the latest round of easing. Regardless, the banks are going to benefit from this, remember the Fed asked them how much they should buy from them.

I stated about a year ago that we can have inflation without wage inflation. We are about to see if that once crazy theory of mine is right. The Fed has now monetized trillions in debt and I can say, with history on my side, this has never ended well for any country who has ventured down this path. America is a special place because of our freedoms, but we are not so special that math and history doesn’t pertain to us. All of the people warning about the Fed’s insane moves might be right and the sky very well might be falling. Heck, if things were as great as we have been told over the past few months by the talking heads and our politicians, who no one believes, why are we even having this conversation? Things are not well and I fear we may be in the calm before a very bad storm like we have never seen before.