On March 31 the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the sixth time in three years and signaled its intention to raise rates twice more in 2018, aiming for a Fed funds target of 3.5 percent by 2020. LIBOR (the London Interbank Offered Rate) has risen even faster than the Fed funds rate, up to 2.3 percent from just 0.3 percent 2 1/2 years ago. LIBOR is set in London by private agreement of the biggest banks, and the interest on $3.5 trillion globally is linked to it, including $1.2 trillion in consumer mortgages.
Alarmed commentators warn that global debt levels have reached $233 trillion, more than three times global GDP, and that much of that debt is at variable rates pegged either to the Fed’s interbank lending rate or to LIBOR. Raising rates further could push governments, businesses and homeowners over the edge. In its Global Financial Stability report in April 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that projected interest rises could throw 22 percent of U.S. corporations into default.
Then there is the U.S. federal debt, which has more than doubled since the 2008 financial crisis, shooting up from $9.4 trillion in mid-2008 to over $21 trillion now. Adding to that debt burden, the Fed has announced it will be dumping its government bonds acquired through quantitative easing at the rate of $600 billion annually. It will sell $2.7 trillion in federal securities at the rate of $50 billion monthly beginning in October. Along with a government budget deficit of $1.2 trillion, that’s nearly $2 trillion in new government debt that will need financing annually.
If the Fed follows through with its plans, projections are that by 2027, U.S. taxpayers will owe $1 trillion annually just in interest on the federal debt. That is enough to fund President Trump’s original trillion-dollar infrastructure plan every year. And it is a direct transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy investors holding most of the bonds. Where will this money come from? Even crippling taxes, wholesale privatization of public assets and elimination of social services will not cover the bill.
With so much at stake, why is the Fed increasing interest rates and adding to government debt levels? Its proffered justifications don’t pass the smell test….
Just a terrible convergence of random events which had nothing to do with a carefully choreographed magic show over the past 25 years. I mean, it’s not like they WANT to steal us blind. It’s just that we can’t seem to figure out how to avoid being chumps. Besides, they got away with the great ripoff of the ’30’s, who can fault them for not knowing when to stop?