Lyn Alden is a macroeconomist and investment strategist. In this interview, we discuss her latest article: How the Fed “Went Broke”. Lyn explains how for the first time in modern history the Federal Reserve is operating at a loss. We talk about the ramifications in terms of continuing high inflation, the bankruptcy of government agencies, and the impacts on the Fed’s independence.
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Bitcoin was born when the global economic machine was showing signs of a terminal illness. Since then, governments around the world are trying to keep the system alive, using measures that will in fact hasten its demise. Due to misaligned political incentives, greed and ignorance, the world’s economy is now entering an unprecedented period of serious economic trauma.
Government bailouts are not new. Alexander Hamilton in 1792 used federal funds to prevent the collapse of the securities market. However, it was the use of Quantitative Easing (QE) to prop up the financial system during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) when the Rubicon was crossed. The Fed bought over $2 trillion of commercial bank assets in 2008/9, paid for through an increase in the monetary base.
The main problem with the GFC was governments became tolerant of the new drug of choice: QE leading to an erosion of market discipline. QE3 started in late 2012, was nicknamed “QE infinity”. It result in $4.5 trillion of commercial bank assets being bought by the Fed. QE4, in response to the Covid pandemic, resulted in the Fed purchasing another $2 trillion of assets.
Since 2008, the monetary base in the US has increased by 750%. The inevitable result is inflation. The response by central banks is to increase interest rates, a tool that doesn’t apply to the problem at hand: unsustainable levels of debt. Higher interest affects the cost of their liabilities, such that they are now, for the first time ever, in negative equity. They are “broke”.
What the markets know but politicians aren’t willing to accept is that this is a new paradigm. The UK Prime Minister Liz Truss was ousted after only 49 days when markets decided unfunded tax cuts with debt to GDP over 100% were irresponsible. The growing realisation is that budget deficits need to be cut. Smaller governments are likely whether people want them or not.