Rising Food Prices Through the Scope of Quantitative Easing
If only the world’s poor, starving masses understood the benefits of Quantitative Easing, they probably would not be rioting in the streets over rising food prices. We simply need to educate these people. Sure, the prices of wheat and corn are soaring, but so are the profits at Goldman Sachs.
These poor people just need to understand that debasing the world’s reserve currency serves a greater good. It’s not just about whether they can eat; it’s also about whether we Americans can weasel out of our massive debts.
The momentary food problems of the poor people over there –wherever they are – are a small price to pay for our resurgent economic activity over here. And remember, if we don’t make lots of money over here, we can’t send any handouts over there.
Such is the logic that seems to inspire Chairman Bernanke’s QE campaigns.
During this week’s Congressional hearings, the Chairman abided no connection whatsoever between Quantitative Easing and soaring food prices. Blame the weather, Bernanke suggested, or credit the economic recovery…or both.
Bernanke’s remarks before Congress echoed his defense of QE2 two weeks ago at the National Press Club in Washington. “Clearly what’s happening [to food prices] is not a dollar effect, it’s a growth effect,” Mr. Bernanke explained.
During that high-profile Q&A session, Bernanke completely rejected any connection between his dollar-debasing policies and the subsequent “re-pricing” of foodstuffs and other commodities. “It is entirely unfair to attribute excess demand pressures [in the emerging markets] to US monetary policy,” he insisted. “In some cases, some of the emerging markets are facing inflationary pressure because their own economies are growing faster than their own capacity.” Furthermore, the Chairman pointed out, “As people’s diets become more sophisticated, their demand for food and energy grows.”
Translation: It’s their problem; don’t blame me.
To be fair, Bernanke is at least half right; it is their problem…and it is a serious one. As to where the blame should fall, that’s open to dispute. Bernanke has already presented his defense, pro se, before the court of public opinion. On the other hand, the nifty little chart below testifies persuasively for the prosecution.
Agricultural commodity prices, as represented by the Rogers Agricultural Commodity ETF, seem to catch a stronger tailwind with each successive “QE” announcement.
Bernanke initially entered the bond-market-manipulation business back in March of 2009. The stock market was on its back, economic conditions were deflationary and fear was palpable. He announced that the Fed would buy $750 billion of mortgage-backed bonds, $100 billion of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities, and $300 billion of long-term Treasury securities.
A handful of academics and a few fringy financial writers criticized this Zimbabwe-esque rescue effort. But most folks were happy to know that the Chairman was “doing something.” At the time, the something that he was doing seemed to most folks to be a necessary one-off. So they did not trouble themselves with the potential inflationary implications of this rescue effort.
Since Bernanke’s initial QE campaign seemed to go off without a hitch, he decided that more must be better. Thus, the initial QE campaign begat QE-lite in August of last year, which then begat QE2 in November.