Evolution Of The Fed

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The evolution of humankind supposedly goes something like this: From a void and through a series of serendipitous happenstances arose; galaxies, the Earthly Primordial ooze, Bacteria, Monkeys, and eventually homo sapiens (wise man). The evolution of the Fed is deserving of equal derision, but with a much worse outcome.

Back in 1913, the Federal Reserve Act gave birth to the Federal Reserve System. The law gave power to the central bank to become a lender of last resort to financial institutions. If a bank found itself in trouble, it could approach the discount window and exchange 100% guaranteed government debt for Fed credit at a deep discount. This process defined the majority of the Fed's role for decades to follow.

However, during this process, two watershed events occurred in 1933 and 1971. Executive order 6102 from FDR, which confiscated gold from private hands, helped pave the way for Nixon's ending of the Bretton Woods System in 1971. These two acts served the goal of completely separating the government's money from gold and giving it the ability to create new money by fiat.

Then, in 1978 the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act (A.K.A.as the Humphrey–Hawkins Act) was signed into law. Congress mandated the Fed to pursue a level of maximum employment under the context of stable prices. The Fed's fiat money was no longer relegated to help banks that fell on hard times. Now, the central bank was charged with printing money until the unemployment rate went so low that it began to engender unstable prices.

But that was just the start of heading down the rabbit hole. From 1987 thru 2000, an unofficial—but nonetheless real—mandate came into being. The Fed was put in charge of keeping stock prices from falling precipitously under the guise of claiming that any bear market would automatically lead to rising unemployment. Hence, it was to ensure a bull market would never end.

Of course, since both stocks and real estate are assets, this line of thinking would also apply to home values if they ever were to fall into harm's way. Unsurprisingly, in 2008 the Fed stampeded to the rescue of real estate prices that had begun to collapse. It could not prevent residential properties from eventually falling by over 30%. However, it could ensure they would not drop any further, nor would they stay low for very long.

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Michael Pento is the President and Founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies, produces the weekly podcast called,  more

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