The Federal Reserve may have released a relatively benign statement taking no further action to stimulate the economy, but a fierce debate is just getting started over the Central Bank's next moves.
TheFOMC statementreiterated that interest rates will hold near zero through mid-2013, and "Operation Twist" —the program to shift its bond holdings toward longer dated maturities, remains in place. This, along with language stating "economic growth strengthened somewhat in the third quarter," enabled a sturdy Wednesday afternoon market rally.
During his quarterly press conference held nearly two hours after the FOMC statement release yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued the committee's updated economic outlook, forecasting a gloomier picture for GDP and the unemployment rate. The Fed's 2011 GDP outlook was slashed to a range of 1.6 - 1.7% from 2.7 — 2.9%, and 2012's cut to 2.5 — 2.9% from 3.3 — 3.7%. The outlook for the unemployment rate is now 8.5 — 8.7% for 2012. Due to the weakened forecast, the Fed Chief made it clear that the central bank is ready to act if necessary.
"You might call it over propaganda," says Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital in the attached video. " I think the U.S. economy is getting worse and the Fed is constantly having to ratchet down its previous expectations."
Bernanke did make it clear that he's "dissatisfied" with the rate of economic improvement calling it "frustratingly slow." Subsequently, he's not alone, as there's a growing chorus of complaint that wants the Fed to back off.
"By keeping the economy addicted to cheap money, he's preventing a real restructuring from taking place," says Schiff. "Part of the recovery process is higher interest rates."
U.S. rates are set at a historically low range of 0% to 0.25%. The Fed dropped rates this low in December 2008 in an emergency response to the deepening financial meltdown.
"The whole financial crisis of 2008 has its roots in the cheap monetary policy of Alan Greenspan," Schiff says. "We have to ask ourselves 'what is the looming crisis that awaits as a consequence of the cheap money policy of Ben Bernanke, because he's being even more reckless than Alan Greenspan?'"
Of course, the Federal Reserve initiatives are meant to assist the economy, but in this polarized environment, you can expect the debate over monetary policy to show up on the Presidential campaign trail as we inch closer to the 2012 election.
Is the Fed doing more harm than good, and will this impact your vote in 2012? Let us know in the comment section below.