By the narrowest margin ever the Senate has confirmed Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. She will be the first female Fed boss, but that’s not the news. As the New York Times put it, Yellen is “an influential proponent of the Fed’s extraordinary measures to revive the economy.” She told the Times that the Fed’s policies had helped not only Wall Street, but Main Street. The stimulus campaign has “made a meaningful contribution to economic growth. The ripple effects go through the economy and bring benefits to, I would say, all Americans.” That may portend a new surge of inflation, as Burt Abrams noted after Barack Obama made Yellen his pick.
Abrams recalled Arthur Burns, Richard Nixon’s choice to head the Federal Reserve in 1970. The economy was mired in stagflation, leaving Burns the option to control the money supply tightly “or rev up the printing presses and risk inflation.” To alleviate unemployment and enhance his chances of reelection, Nixon wanted Burns to print more money and Burns gave the president what he wanted. “That shortsighted, politically motivated policy,” Abrams noted, “not only defied the alleged independence of the Fed, it launched the economy on an inflationary course that could be reversed only at enormous cost to the nation in the long run.” So with midterm elections looming and unemployment still running high, should the nation expect more of the same?
Last April Yellen said, “I believe progress on reducing unemployment should take center stage, even if maintaining that progress might result in inflation slightly and temporarily exceeding 2 percent.” Abrams also noted some $2.2 trillion in excess reserves. Eliminating these excess reserves before they produce “an explosive growth in the money supply and surging inflation” should be more of a concern than an unemployment rate that is more the product of “uncertainties associated with deficit spending and business fears about Obamacare.”
Abrams finds “plenty of evidence that the president is a mindless stimulator,” and Janet Yellen is the president’s choice. A veteran of the Clinton administration, “she may well be a pliable Democratic loyalist to the same degree that Arthur Burns was a Republican loyalist—or more so.” Therefore “inflation could soon mount a surge.” Contrary to Obama’s new Fed boss, that would not bring benefits to all Americans.