The good thing about being a policy-driven libertarian is that I don’t feel any need to engage in political spin.
It also means I don’t believe in blaming politicians for things that are not their fault. For example, NBC just released a poll showing that Joe Biden has low marks for economic policy.
Some of that is appropriate (his fiscal policy is atrocious, to cite one reason), but I think the answers to this question show that the president is getting a bum rap on one issue.
Why am I letting Biden off the hook about monetary policy?
For the simple reason that the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) deserves the blame. The central bank’s inflationary policies are the reason that prices are rising.
One can claim that Joe Biden is partly to blame because he recently re-nominated Jay Powell, the current Chairman of the Fed. But, if that’s the case, then Donald Trump also is partly to blame – or even more to blame – because he nominated Powell in the first place.
Moreover, as illustrated by this chart, the Fed’s mistake that led to rising prices occurred in early 2020.
Simply stated, the Fed pumped lots of liquidity into the system. That set the stage for today’s price increases (as Milton Friedman told us, there’s always a lag between decisions about monetary policy and changes in prices).
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If you look closely, you’ll notice that this massive monetary intervention began nearly one year before Biden took office.
In other words, Biden would have been just like Trump. At least on this issue.
But none of that changes the fact that Biden’s actions since becoming president have very little to do with today’s price increases.
Let’s close with a few additional observations about the aforementioned polling results.
- The folks at NBC deserve some criticism for failing to give people the option of choosing the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. I’m guessing this was because of ignorance rather than bias.
- The people who blamed “corporations increasing prices” obviously didn’t pay attention in their economics classes. Rising prices are a symptom of inflation, not the cause.
- The people who blamed Putin for inflation are even more ignorant. At the risk of stating the obvious, a Russian invasion in February of 2022 obviously wasn’t responsible for rising prices in 2021.
P.S. The inflation-recession cycle caused by bad monetary policy could be avoided if the Fed was constrained by some simple rules.
P.P.S. Or maybe, just maybe, we should reconsider the role of central banks.
P.P.P.S. For what it’s worth, very few politicians have the intelligence and fortitude to support good monetary policy.