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Monetary policy in disarray

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  • Tatom, John

Abstract

Monetary policy has become difficult to characterize or follow since 2007. A debate as to whether interest rate targets or monetary aggregate targets are better indicators of policy and prospective outcomes has given way to a new credit policy built on inflating the Federal Reserve (Fed) balance sheet to provide private sector credit. This policy grew out of the Great Depression and has led the Fed to ignore monetary growth and render a federal funds rate target impotent by pushing it to zero. To implement the more than doubling of the Fed’s assets, the Fed took up commercial banking policies. Three examples are: selling Treasury assets to fund private assets, paying subsidies to banks for holding reserves and attracting a new class of Treasury debt sterilized in Fed deposits. These actions insulated monetary aggregates and the effective monetary base from the explosion in the Fed’s balance sheet. The new credit policy severed the tight link that had existed for over 70 years between Fed credit and its effective monetary base. Fortunately, it also insulated the economy from a more than doubling of the general price level. But these actions have turned the balance sheet of the Fed into a collection of illiquid and risky private assets. A similar portfolio of government securities that has the longest duration in history and therefore the greatest interest rate risk limits the Fed’s ability to reduce its assets or the excess reserve position of banks, exceeding $1.5 trillion and costing the taxpayer over $3.3 billion, from 2009 to mid-2011. The subsidy and excess reserve levels of the first half of 2011 will cost $2.3 billion per year going forward. Finally, the paper rebuts claims by Fed officials that the Fed has successfully followed the framework of monetary policy developed by Milton Friedman. The paper concludes with recommendations for Congressional restrictions on the Fed and Treasury to ensure that the Fed focus on responsible monetary policy and not its failed credit policy.

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  • Tatom, John, 2011. "Monetary policy in disarray," MPRA Paper 34607, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34607
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael T. Belongia & Peter N. Ireland, 2012. "A "Working" Solution to the Question of Nominal GDP Targeting," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 802, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 04 Jan 2013.
    2. Dutkowsky, Donald H. & VanHoose, David D., 2020. "Equal treatment under the Fed: Interest on reserves, the federal funds rate, and the ‘Third Regime’ of bank behavior," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 107(C).
    3. Michael T. Belongia & Peter N. Ireland, 2013. "Instability: Monetary and Real," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 830, Boston College Department of Economics.
    4. Michael T. Belongia & Peter N. Ireland, 2016. "Money and Output: Friedman and Schwartz Revisited," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 48(6), pages 1223-1266, September.
    5. Michael T. Belongia & Peter N. Ireland, 2015. "Interest Rates and Money in the Measurement of Monetary Policy," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(2), pages 255-269, April.
    6. Peter Lewin, 2016. "Policy Design and Execution in a Complex World: Can We Learn from the Financial Crisis?," Advances in Austrian Economics, in: Steven Horwitz (ed.),Studies in Austrian Macroeconomics, volume 20, pages 265-283, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    7. Dutkowsky, Donald H. & VanHoose, David D., 2018. "Interest on reserves and Federal Reserve unwinding," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 28-38.
    8. Belongia, Michael T. & Ireland, Peter N., 2017. "Circumventing the zero lower bound with monetary policy rules based on money," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 54(PA), pages 42-58.
    9. Michael T. Belongia & Peter N. Ireland, 2012. "Quantitative Easing: Interest Rates and Money in the Measurement of Monetary Policy," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 801, Boston College Department of Economics.
    10. Dutkowsky, Donald H. & VanHoose, David D., 2017. "Interest on reserves, regime shifts, and bank behavior," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 1-15.
    11. Dutkowsky, Donald H. & VanHoose, David D., 2018. "Breaking up isn’t hard to do: Interest on reserves and monetary policy," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 15-27.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    monetary policy; credit policy; central banking; Milton Friedman; business cycles;

    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles

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