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Open Dissent at the Fed: Charles Plosser (Philly Fed) Opposes QE2; Thomas Hoenig (Kansas City) attends Tea Party

Open Dissent at the Fed: Charles Plosser (Philly Fed) Opposes QE2; Thomas Hoenig (Kansas City) attends Tea Party

Courtesy of Mish

An open battle exists at the Fed concerning Bernanke’s second round of Quantitative Easing (QE2).

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Hoenig Attends Tea Party

Bloomberg reports Fed Dissenter Hoenig Wages Lonely Campaign Against Easy Credit

Thomas M. Hoenig, dressed in a gray suit, white shirt with French cuffs, and baby-blue tie, faces an edgy crowd of 150 people in a hotel meeting room in suburban Lenexa, Kan. A large “Kansas City Tea Party” banner covers a table at the door. Attendees wear anti-tax stickers on their lapels. This is not an after-dinner speech for which most central bankers would volunteer.

Hoenig smiles at his audience and begins: “This is a support-the-Fed rally, right?”

Dead silence. Then the room erupts in laughter. Disarmed, the Tea Partiers listen politely as Hoenig defends the Federal Reserve as an indispensible institution, even if at the moment, he says, it happens to be heading in the wrong direction.

And, by the way, if it were up to him (though it’s not, really) he would break up the biggest Wall Street banks.

This is Tom Hoenig’s moment, and it’s a strange one. In Washington, he is the burr in Fed Chairman Bernanke’s saddle: the rogue heartland banker who keeps dissenting alone — for the sixth straight time on Sept. 21 — to protest the Fed’s rock- bottom interest-rate policy. Hoenig warns that the Bernanke majority is setting the country up for an as-yet-unknown asset bubble: the next dot-com or subprime craze. He can’t tell yet where the boom-and-bust will materialize, but he can feel it coming, like a Missouri wheat farmer senses in his bones the storm that’s just over the horizon.

In abundant speeches and articles, Hoenig has condemned the political influence of the financial elite. “We’ve had a Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs under a Democratic President and a Treasury Secretary from Goldman Sachs under a Republican President. The outcomes were not good,” Hoenig says while being driven to a luncheon talk at an affordable housing conference in Topeka, Kan.

Hoenig harbors powerful misgivings over not dissenting more often and more forcefully during the Greenspan years. “He regrets going along with the votes when Alan Greenspan was chairman to get rates so low and keeping them so low so long,” says his friend Fisher.

There is much more in the article including a discussion of the open debate between Krugman and Hoenig.

Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser joins Hoenig

Please consider Economic Outlook Charles I. Plosser’s speech to The Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce September 29, 2010.

My basic message is this: I believe we are in the midst of an economic recovery – a modest one, but a recovery nonetheless. Over the last few months, we have experienced something like the summer doldrums. The tail winds that helped propel the economy earlier in the year have waned. Yet such a slowdown is not unusual in the early phases of recovery, and we should not overreact to data that can be volatile and may be revised over time. My assessment of the recent data leads me to expect that the recovery will continue at a moderate pace over the next several quarters.

Inflation and Monetary Policy

On the inflation front, recent data indicate some deceleration, which has led some observers to voice concerns about sustained deflation – that is, a prolonged decline in the level of prices. In my view, inflation will remain subdued in the near term, but I do not see a significant risk of sustained deflation. I anticipate that inflation expectations will remain relatively stable and core inflation will run in the 1 to 1-1/2 percent range this year and accelerate toward 2 percent in 2011.

Inflation in this range is not a problem – indeed, low inflation is desirable. Most people forget, or are too young to know, that from 1953 to 1965, the average inflation rate measured by the consumer price index (CPI) was just 1.3 percent. For the last 15 years, Switzerland’s average inflation rate has been less than 1 percent. In neither of these episodes did low inflation lead to economic stagnation or fears of deflation.

Were deflationary expectations to materialize – and let me repeat, I do not see much risk of this – I would support appropriate steps to raise expectations of inflation, including, perhaps, aggressive asset purchases coupled with clear communication that our goal is to combat deflationary expectations. But for such a strategy to be successful, the public must believe that the Fed can and will act to combat those expectations.

The Fed must be credible. Protecting that credibility is why, based on my current outlook, I do not support further asset purchases of any size at this time. As I said earlier, asset purchases in our current economic environment can do little if anything to speed up the return to full employment. But if the public believes that they can and is disappointed, it may have less confidence that the Fed will act to raise inflationary expectations if needed. Because I see little gain at this point, and some costs, I would prefer not to engage in further asset purchases at this time.

There is much to blast Plosser for. For starters, Quantitative Easing does not work as noted in Sure Thing?!

Moreover, inflation targeting is pure idiocy. For some explanations as to why please see Fallacy of Inflation Targeting.

For further discussion, please see Does Inflation Targeting Make Any Sense?

Finally, it is perfectly clear that Plosser does not even know what inflation is. Yet, even if one did think inflation was about prices, the idea that the Fed can control prices in a global economy is sheer lunacy.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to see multiple dissents regarding Fed policy. Hopefully that dissent continues to mount.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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