Sunday, September 30, 2012

Houston, we’ve got another problem: Our central bankers’ are flying blind

In February of 2011, Alan Greenspan gave the keynote address during an event at the Brookings Institution on “Reforming the Mortgage Market”. He ended his speech by expressing that he really would like to know what the real mortgage rates would be in the US, without any of those many distortions which affect it.

I got no chance to question him in public but at the end of the event I managed to ask him: 

“Mr. Greenspan, would you likewise not want to know what the most important interest rate in the market, the interest rate on US Treasuries would be without distortions?” 

He looked at me and asked “What do you mean?” I told him: “I mean that interest rate which would result if banks were required to hold as much capital when lending to the US Treasury as they are when lending to a US citizen, a small businesses or entrepreneurs.” I felt for a moment Greenspan nervously doubting, but then he answered “Yes, I would!” 

And that is one of the sad facts today. Central banks, in the US and Europe, are basically flying blind, because they have not the faintest idea about what their real Treasury rates would be without the regulatory subsidies in favor of public borrowings they have introduced. 

And then we hear so much nonsense about this being a great time for public indebtedness because rates are so low… Rates low? Has no one factored in all the opportunity costs for the economy and job creation of all those small businesses and entrepreneurs who did, and do still not have access to bank credit in competitive terms? 

PS. So, Houston, we sure have got ourselves another serious problem.

PS. Might someone at long last be waking up?