Peter Schiff | Groundhog Day at the Fed

Peter Schiff, Real Clear Markets:

Every dictator knows that a continuous state of emergency is the best means to justify tyrannical policies. The trick is to keep the fictitious emergency from breeding so much paranoia that routine activities come to a halt. Many have discovered that its best to make the threat external, intangible and ultimately, unverifiable. In Orwell’s 1984 the preferred mantra was “We’ve always been at war with Eurasia,” even though everyone knew it wasn’t true. In its rate decision this week the Federal Reserve, adopted a similar approach and conjured up an external threat to maintain a policy that is becoming increasingly absurd.

In blaming its continued inaction on “uncertainties abroad” (an excuse never before invoked by the Fed in the current period of zero interest rates), the Fed was able to maintain the pretense of a strong domestic economy, and its desire to lift rates at the earliest appropriate moment while continuing the economic life support of zero percent rates. Unbelievably, the media swallowed the propaganda hook, line, and sinker.

Over the summer it all seemed so certain. In mid-August the Wall Street Journal conducted a poll revealing that 95% of economists expected a rate hike by the end of 2015, with 82% expecting the first move to come in September. On July 29, Marketwatch reported that changes in Fed language were the “smoking gun” that made a September move a certainty. I was one of the few who publicly predicted that all the tough talk from the Fed was a bluff, and that there would be no hike in 2015. For taking that stance, I was largely ignored and ridiculed. In a July 16 interview on CNBC’s Futures Now (I am no longer invited to be on their television broadcasts), pundit Scott Nations took me to task for making the “outlandish” suggestion that the Fed would not raise in 2015, saying (to paraphrase):

“If price is truth and Fed funds futures are the collective wisdom of everybody in the world, and they are absolutely a lock for the Fed to raise rates by the end of the year, why is everybody else wrong and you are right?”

But now, in mid-September, it has all changed, far fewer economists expect a hike this year. However, despite this dramatic reversal, few have downgraded their forecasts or weakened their belief that the Fed remains committed to tighten policy…eventually. In other words, the Fed has achieved a complete communications victory.

Just like it has in prior statements, the Fed painted a picture of a stable and growing economy that was ready for a hike. In fact, in her press conference, Janet Yellen said that the Fed was “impressed” by the strength of the domestic economy. Although such statements began to resemble the film Groundhog Day, no one seems to tire of it.

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