by David Stockman via Contra Corner
The Cleveland Fed’s Loretta Mester is a clueless apparatchik and Fed lifer, who joined the system in 1985 fresh out of Barnard and Princeton and has imbibed in its Keynesian groupthink and institutional arrogance ever since. So it’s not surprising that she was out flogging – albeit downunder in Australia – the next step in the Fed’s rolling coup d’ etat.
We’re always assessing tools that we could use,” Mester told the ABC’s AM program. “In the US we’ve done quantitative easing and I think that’s proven to be useful.
“So it’s my view that helicopter money would be sort of the next step if we ever found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to be more accommodative.”
Translation: If the FED’s direct buying of stocks is not enough to keep the stock market elevated until Hillary gets elected, we will just dump a few trillion extra dollars in the banking system.
This is beyond the pale because “helicopter money” isn’t some kind of new wrinkle in monetary policy, at all. It’s an old as the hills rationalization for monetization of the public debt—–that is, purchase of government bonds with central bank credit conjured from thin air.
It’s the ultimate in “something for nothing” economics. That’s because most assuredly those government bonds originally funded the purchase of real labor hours, contract services or dams and aircraft carriers.
As a technical matter, helicopter money is exactly the same thing as QE. Nor does the journalistic confusion that it involves “direct” central bank funding of public debt make a wit of difference.
Suppose Washington issues treasury bonds to the 23 primary dealers on Wall Street in the regular manner. Further, assume that some or all of these dealers stick the bonds in inventory for 3 days, 3 months or even 3 years, and then sell them back to the Fed under QE (and most likely at a higher price).
The only thing different technically about “helicopter money” policy is the suggestion by Bernanke and others that the treasury bonds could be issued directly to the Fed. That would just circumvent the dwell time in dealer (or “investor”) inventories but result in exactly the same end state. In that event, of course, Wall Street wouldn’t get the skim.
But that’s not the real reason why helicopter money policy is so loathsome. The unstated essence of it is that our monetary politburo would overtly conspire and coordinate with the White House and Capitol Hill to bury future generations in crushing public debts all to keep the incumbents in power.
They would do this by agreeing to generate incremental fiscal deficits—-as if Uncle Sam’s current $19 trillion isn’t enough debt—–which would be matched dollar for dollar by an increase in the Fed’s bond-buying or monetization rate. That amounts not only to teaching children how to play with matches; it’s tantamount to setting fiscal forest fires across the land.