The Fed’s Ever-Growing Golden Footprint

The Fed’s Ever-Growing Golden Footprint

A special thank you to Alexander Stahel for providing us historical data on real interest rates.

What is a Dollar?

The value of a dollar is a figment of your imagination. A “greenback” is a worthless piece of paper backed by an intangible promise- the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government. Its value rests on a necessary belief that one can transact with it today and tomorrow. Therein lies the value of any fiat currency.

Similarly, gold has little tangible value other than what we ascribe to it. Gold is not currently an authorized currency in any developed nation. But, it is held in proportionally small amounts by many governments as an informal reserve. Besides opinions of worth, the difference between the dollar and gold is gold has provided a means of storing wealth and transacting for millennia. Gold is and has always been the antithesis of fiat currency. There are important differences, such as elasticity, storage, and transact-ability that we will not review in this article.

Decades of irresponsible fiscal spending and monetary tomfoolery slowly but surely reduce the dollar’s value. The loss of its value is not perceptible to most as a dollar is still worth a dollar. For those on the lookout, however, the price of gold is sending a strong message.

The message is not in the price of gold per se but its strong correlation to destructive fiscal and monetary policies. 

Trust in the Dollar

The U.S. dollar is the world’s most trusted currency. Even America’s most ardent enemies transact in dollars and hold them as reserves.

For the last 30 years, the U.S. government has run continual deficits requiring ever greater assistance from the Fed to fund it. The Fed works their magic by adjusting the nation’s money supply to manage interest rates and keep interest expenses manageable.

For many years, as shown below, the monetary base was approximately 5% of the nation’s annual economic output. Starting in 2008, however, the Fed took much bolder steps to push interest rates lower. Their actions ensured the government could sustain recurring outsized deficits. Equally important, corporate and private borrowers can service mounting debt levels.

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