- US election represents a ballot on the current order
- Trump accuses Fed of creating a bubble with 'free money'
- Continual QE among the least popular elements of the status quo
By Michael McKenna
Beneath the froth and the fury, the US election is essentially a binary referendum on the way things are. This was true of Brexit, was true of Angela Merkel's recent home-state defeat in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and will be true of the upcoming Italian constitutional referendum
All across the Western world, restive populations are questioning the worth of the economic, military, and cultural order erected in the wake of the Cold War (or perhaps even the Second World War).
Is it a still-fragile step towards a borderless world of peace, plenty, and mutual consideration?
Or is it a teetering Babel of naked emperors buying time with printed money?
"If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don't understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back" – Jean-Claude Juncker
In the US, partisans of the first claim will support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, whose campaign represents a smooth continuation of present norms regarding the economy
, foreign policy, and the post-1960s social order.
Donald Trump, by contrast, is the candidate of fierce rejection, and is campaigning on a nationalist platform that breaks with both Democratic and Republican policies, earning him the enmity of longtime right-wingers from Mitt Romney to Michael Bloomberg
to a host of hawkish neoconservatives
"So far, I think [Yellen has] done a political job... the only thing that's strong is the artificial stock market", says Trump, adding that equity markets are "only strong because it's free money, because the rates are so low."
"It's an artificial market," concluded the Republican candidate; "it's a bubble."
Trumps remarks, of course, align with the thoughts of many mainstream financial analysts and pundits, with only his accusation that the Fed is playing politics possibly straying into rough ground.
Behind the rhetoric
According to Saxo Bank head of forex strategy John J Hardy, Trump's comments largely represent a helping of red meat for his anti-globalisation base. "The Fed is an easy target, as those who vote for Trump have lost the most in the rising inequality", says Hardy;
"This inequality is aggravated by Fed policy that boosts asset markets but doesn’t do much for the regular economy."
On the subject of the Fed's political involvement, Hardy tells us that it's a bit more complicated than the Republican's remarks suggest.
"The Fed can’t avoid politics – Alan Greenspan was famously political [while] Ben Bernanke generally tried to avoid politics but was the first to really come under fire," says Hardy, adding that the charges against Bernanke were "somewhat unfair in the beginning, as it was the long arc of Fed policy started by Greenspan that was the root cause [of his difficulties as Fed chair]"
Concerning former Fed chair Paul Volcker (1979-87), who undertook a series of broadly successful anti-inflation measures in the early '80s, Hardy notes that in contrast to the lifelong Democrat's conflation with then-president Ronald Reagan's rhetoric of economic optimism, "Volcker was very forcefully independent and often worked against [the president]".
Easy targets and weak links
In an election that essentially asks Americans to cast a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on the current order, there remain many who feel as though what openDemocracy (a publication funded by George Soros'
Open Society Foundation) calls "cosmopolitan, socially liberal modernity
" is viable and worth defending, whatever its present ills.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Of all of this social model's many current supports, however, continual central bank money-printing could very well be the least popular.
The presidential campaign has seen Trump swing very wildly at targets ranging from Mexican judges to Rosie O'Donnell, but with his latest jab at the Yellen Fed, the upstart Republican has connected with the very vein of economic discontent his campaign is centred on – whatever the truth of his claim.