In a talk given to a small audience at the American Museum of Finance on Wednesday evening, former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker stated that there was an ongoing recession in the U.S. and that we will be seeing inflation in the future because of the actions of the Fed and Treasury during the 2008 Credit Crisis.
While most of Volcker's talk centered on the current crisis in Europe, he frequently made connections to what was going on in the EU to what has taken place in the United States. His remarks about the U.S. being mired in an ongoing recession were in response to a question on whether an infrastructure bank would be a good idea. As part of his answer he stated, "We're not going to end the recession in the next month or the next year. It's going to take several years before the recession is over." The U.S. government claims that the last recession ended in June 2009 and has repeatedly said that the U.S. has not fallen back into recession even though unemployment and consumer confidence have continuously remained at recession levels.
When discussing the bailouts during the Credit Crisis, Volcker remarked "people said that there will be inflation... that's true over time." Volcker was critical of pro-inflation policies. He said that "the problem with inflation is that it looks so enticing, but the historical record doesn't verify that it is." He continued, "We would be very foolish if we deliberately went out and created inflation." The Federal Reserve under Ben Bernanke has kept Fed Funds rates around zero percent for three years now, which means real interest rates have been negative. Negative interest rates are highly inflationary as is money printing. The Fed has expanded its balance sheet — one of the many ways it prints money — by over $2 trillion dollars since September 2008.
Volcker described the 2008 Credit Crisis as a "regulatory failure", but added "the Fed is only one regulator". He went on to state that "the Federal Reserve took a lot of extraordinary measures" to handle events back then and "the Fed and the Treasury did not necessarily follow the letter of the law" in attempting to control the damage to the financial system. Volcker further laid part of the blame for the Credit Crisis to proprietary trading by banks and said he was "not in favor of banks being speculative entities being supported by the U.S. government".
Paul Volcker was Chairman of the Federal Reserve from August 1979 to August 1987 and is widely credited with bringing down the high inflation of the 1970s by raising interest rates. More recently he headed the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which he left in February.
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup
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