04/20/2017

The Fed Still Has On Its Beer Goggles

Danielle DiMartino Booth, Time

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. How different would the world we live in today be had the Federal Reserve shown restraint and practiced self-control in the current economic recovery? Where would the stock market be if Fed officials had not placated investors every time they threw a temper tantrum, demanding more stimulus?

We will, of course, never know the answers to these questions. But we can hope that the next generation of Fed leaders does have the wisdom and courage to push back against the market’s demands in favor of fostering long-term stability and economic growth.

Soon after ringing in 2014, a hilarious column by one of my closest friends, market analyst Peter Boockvar of the Lindsey Group, made me laugh out loud.

I forwarded “Beer Goggles” to Dallas Federal Reserve president Richard Fisher, who loved it when I shot great metaphors his way.

Not long afterwards, Fisher quoted Boockvar, giving what would become his most famous speech: “QE puts beer goggles on investors by creating a line of sight where everything looks good.”

For his “wine and martini” audience, the National Association of Corporate Directors, Fisher defined the term “beer goggles,” described in the Urban Dictionary as the effect that alcohol has in rendering a person alluring who one would ordinarily regard as unattractive.

“Things often look better when one is under the influence of free-flowing liquidity,” Fisher said. “This is one reason why William McChesney Martin, the longest-serving Fed chairman in our institution’s 100-year history, famously said that the Fed’s job is to take away the punch bowl just as the party gets going.”

Where are we now? Punch bowl, beer goggles. Different eras, same hangover.

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Thanks to "bracket creep," the inflation of the 1970s pushed millions of taxpayers into higher tax brackets even though their inflation-adjusted incomes were not rising. To help offset this tax increase and also to improve incentives to work, save, and invest, President Reagan proposed sweeping tax rate reductions during the 1980s. What happened? Total tax revenues climbed by 99.4 percent during the 1980s, and the results are even more impressive when looking at what happened to personal income tax revenues. Once the economy received an unambiguous tax cut in January 1983, income tax revenues climbed dramatically, increasing by more than 54 percent by 1989 (28 percent after adjusting for inflation).

 

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