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Yellen, the Hawk?

Posted by
October 29, 2013
in Blog

 

 

Well, it’s official. President Obama has picked Janet Yellen as his nominee to be the next Federal Reserve Chairman. In the months leading up to this announcement, the press unanimously dubbed Yellen the Queen of the Doves, pointing to her reluctance to roll back the Fed’s Quantitative Easing program. As it turns out, however, Yellen is hardly the dove she is made out to be. Indeed, when it comes to money supply, Dr. Yellen seems, well, downright hawkish.

Traditionally, the dove label has referred to an emphasis on the Fed’s mandate to pursue full employment (even at the expense of slightly higher inflation), while the hawk label has referred to a focus on the Fed’s price stability mandate. In practice, however, the dove-hawk distinction typically comes down to a question of the money supply: to increase, or not to increase?

First, we must define what measure of the money supply we are talking about. While it is true that the Fed has turned on the money pumps in the wake of the 2008 crisis, the Fed only directly controls what is known as state money, also known as the monetary base, which includes currency in circulation and bank reserves with the Fed. The vast majority of the money supply, properly measured, using a broad metric, is what is known as bank money. This is money produced by the private banking sector via deposit creation, and it includes liquid, money-like assets such as demand deposit and savings deposits.

The Fed has indeed been quite loose when it comes to state money, with the state money proportion of the total money supply increasing from 5% of the total before the crisis, to 19% today (see the accompanying chart). …

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