This week all eyes are on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The FOMC must decide whether to stop monetizing the federal debt issued by the Treasury, which is what the U.S. central bank calls “quantitative easing.” Americans continue to believe — and hope — that the Fed can save us from our collective idiocy when it comes to debt, both public and private. While there are growing signs that the Fed’s zero interest rate policy, or “ZIRP,” is greatly damaging individuals and financial institutions alike, we also need to question whether the Fed can let rates rise without provoking another financial assets collapse. In effect, the Fed and other global central banks are all caught in a “Catch-22? situation, to borrow the phrase from the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller. The Fed’s aggressive easing of interest rates and purchases of trillions of dollars in Treasury debt and other assets has stabilized and even raised the price of financial assets, but in other respects the Fed’s policy of reflation has failed — especially compared with past interest rate cycles.