QE2 Has Serious Problems

Michael Lewitt (via John Mauldin) wrote last week for The HCM Market Letter a pretty concise view of the problems of QE2:

QE2 is not only unlikely to work but is certain to contribute to future financial instability. The financial system is already sitting on US$1 trillion of excess reserves. The reason that these reserves are not being used to grow the economy through capital spending or to create jobs is not that interest rates are too high. Rather, reserves are going unutilized because of a profound lack of confidence on the part of economic actors bred by anti-growth policies promoted by the Obama administration (particularly healthcare reform) and the threat of significantly higher taxes (as much as US$6 trillion over the next 10 years if current plans aren’t altered. ) QE2 will do nothing to address these factors suppressing demand for funds. QE2 is a monetary policy tool being used to address a problem that has nothing to do with monetary policy. As such, it is misguided and is unli kely to work. What it will do, however, is further swell the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and lower the value of the dollar, neither of which will contribute to the long-term strength of the American or global economy.

But QE2 doesn’t only fail to aim at the right target (employment); it doesn’t really aim at anything at all. Instead, QE2 basically sprays money indiscriminately into the economy instead of targeting money at productive activities. Current fiscal and tax policy promotes peculation at the expense of productive growth; examples include the lax rules governing derivatives trading and leveraged buyouts, activities that add nothing to the productive capacity of the economy. Without fiscal and tax policy changes designed to promote productive growth, the excess reserves created by QE2 will end up in the hands of speculators in the financial industry. This will increase systemic leverage and exacerbate existing overcapacity in unproductive areas such as finance and real estate. QE2 without fiscal and tax policy changes is simply a continuation of the boom-and-bust regime that has dominated global financial markets for the past three decades.

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Anthony Randazzo

Anthony Randazzo is a senior fellow at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.