The Federal Reserve lowering (and keeping) interest rates near zero is harmful. But why? I explain.
You might say that we need low-interest rates when we enter into a recession. Even if that were true, we need to make a distinction between lowering interest rates and keeping them low. No, those aren’t the same thing. The Fed could have lowered interest rates in 2008 (which they did), without also keeping them low for a decade.
While you might say that low-interest rates are good because they stimulate the economy, this is misleading. Even if it’s good to “stimulate” that doesn’t mean low-interest rates don’t carry other (negative) effects. For example, low-interest rates inevitably lead to speculation in the stock market.
You might grant all this and say central banks can do the “printing” while governments do the regulation. But this is like the scientist who wants to pick and choose the implications of a hypothesis. You can’t have your low-interest rate cake and eat it too. Low-interest rates send a signal, and that signal says to engage in speculation.
This is why I find it funny that almost nobody, especially progressives, ever mention the Federal Reserve’s moves that have to encourage income inequality. The billionaires get richer because money is flooded into assets like stocks. Just think of Amazon and Netflix. They’ve burned through cash for years. They weren’t an investment for long periods of time — they were just speculation. They easily could have failed, and they probably should have failed.
Next, think of companies that are nowhere near “making it” like Uber. Uber is a unicorn company which is kind of like the opposite of a zombie company. The Fed keeping interest rates low keeps dead companies alive and encourages speculation in companies that don’t have good cash flows or profitability.
Think about it: is it merely a coincidence that since interest rates have been near zero for 10+ years-and been going lower all the way back to 1980- that the economy/wages have been declining/stagnant for decades? No, it’s not a coincidence, because the stock market has grown at a crazy rate since 1980 (and that’s because money is flowing into assets). Why? Because of interest rates.
I’m not saying capitalism is a zero-sum game, but at the same time, money has to go somewhere. And by and large, shareholders have been benefiting at the expense of stakeholders for decades. Central planning of interest rates (by the Fed) isn’t capitalism: interest rates would be set by the market under capitalism.