It was a four short months ago that the Clearing House Association, in a court filing, threatened with untold destruction if the Fed was ordered to submit to an audit that would expose all their dirty laundry in the form of undervalued assets used as collateral by the Federal Reserve. We recall the direct threat used back then:
If the names of our member banks who borrow emergency funds are publicly disclosed, the likelihood that a borrowing bank's customers, counterparties and other market participants will draw a negative inference is great. Public speculation that a financial institution is experiencing liquidity shortfalls - which would be a natural inference from having tapped emergency funds - has caused bank customers to withdraw deposits, counterparties to make collateral calls and lenders to accelerate loan repayment or refuse to make new loans. When an institution's customers flee and its credit dries up the institution may suffer severe capital and liquidity strains leaving it in a weakened competitive position.
It is fitting that as attempts to expose the Fed's shady practices accelerate on all fronts, and include direct legal approaches as well as subpoena demands by various politicians, that a Fed President would once again come out today, and recap the good old Mutual Assured Destruction treatise that both Wall and Main Street have gotten used to since the beginning of the bailouts. Somehow financial M.A.D. makes an appearance every time the bankers demand something and have no other rational justifications. So why not just feed the stupid plebs something about the Apocalypse that is certain to transpire should the financial oligarchs not get their way. Today was no exception.
Enter Richmond Fed president Jeffrey Lacker. His words, from prepared tesimony to the Richmond Risk Management Association:
Some observers argue that the financial reform agenda should include changes in the role and governance of the Federal Reserve. One proposal would extend the GAO's authority to audit Fed operations to include monetary policy decisions. Other proposals would alter our governance structure by making Reserve Bank directors and/or presidents political appointees. I know it might sound self serving for a Fed insider to object to such changes, but I believe such moves would present very serious risks to the effectiveness of monetary policy and ultimately to economic growth and stability. Looking across time and across countries, there is abundant evidence that economic policy and macroeconomic performance are generally better when the central bank's monetary policy decisions are shielded from the political pressures of the moment. For an illustrative case, one need only look to the 1970s in the U.S., when political influence led to high and volatile inflation that disrupted economic growth. The governance of the Federal Reserve System balances accountability, with ultimate authority resting in Washington, and independence, with the participation of non-political leaders from throughout the country. While the performance of our economy in the last two years has clearly been unsatisfactory, and policy mistakes may have contributed to our problems, the Fed's balanced, hybrid governance structure has, I believe, given us a good record over the better part of three decades. Disrupting that balance would pose another long term challenge for our economy.
While Mr. Lacker's testimony is indeed self-serving, it is also patently flawed. There is nothing in the proposed Fed Transparency law that would imperil the Fed with direct political intervention, and nothing that would impact its monetary policy decision-making appartus. Perhaps it is about time someone highlighted the actual truth behind the various Ron Paul et al proposals, which seek not contemporaneous information of decision-making to the GAO or otherwise, but a delayed, 6 month-lagged disclosure. How this impairs monetary policy independence is incomprehensible.
Furthermore, the claim that the Fed's "balanced, hybrid governance structure has given us a good record over the better part of three decades" is very much subject to a recount. If Mr. Lacker deems that Fed's actions over the past three decades, which culminated with the implosion of the biggest credit and housing bubbles this country has ever seen, courtesy of self-serving (that phrase again) monetary flaws, are indicative of a "good record" then we certainly agree. We also would recommend that the Fed president immediately seek a medical prescription for Geodon or, if that particular medicine will not be covered by the soon enacted "new and improved" nationalized healthcare system, any other over-the-counter antipsychotic medication that is freely available.
The biggest problem with the Fed is its continuous insistence that the kleptocratic oligarchy always knows not only what is in everyone's best interest, but is so much smarter than all, that stupid peasants getting advance knowledge of just how impaired the major TBTF institutions are, would immediately risk bank runs. Once again, it never dawns upon these enlightened gentlemen, that such rumor-based "bank runs" are merely a byproduct of never having the sufficient information to make informed decisions about these very companies in real time. And when the shit does hit the fan (as it always eventually does under the Fed's "aegis") the outpouring of panic is enough to bring the system down in a matter of hours as September 18, 2008 demonstrated.
Yet if American citizens are not allowed to get a glimpse into the true state of the banking system, which consists of publicly traded institutions for the most part, but also are the recipients of trillions of dollars of direct taxpayer cash and guarantees, then there never will be a right time to attain such information.
It is, and has always been, in everyone's best interest to have as much information about each and every financial institution, be it small regional banks, TBTF failures such as Citi, Fixed Income monopolists, or the nexus of all: the Federal Reserve. And until such information is freely available to all, not just provided to SIGTARPs and other investigatory queries, which all operate underneath the radar of full disclosure, the system will continue to be on edge, and constantly ready to collapse at a minute's notice, the second it becomes clear that the Fed, contrary to its desires, is unable to conduct the first ever successful experiment involving a planned and controlled economy.