2008-04-29moneymorning.com

Articles are flooding out exploring the Fed's effect on food inflation. Here are a few:

The Fed's Dilemma (Martin Hutchinson), which is very similar to an article I wrote a few days ago:

Interest-rate policy normally only affects the world economy at the margin, but it has now been so expansionary for so long that the Fed’s interest-rate strategy has turned into a moral dilemma of sorts. In short, the central bank’s monetary policy will likely determine whether millions of U.S. homeowners lose their homes or millions of the world’s poor starve.

A not-so-slight critique of this: Hutchinson states that inflation would actually be good for housing on the premise that wage would rise with inflation. That's a big "if", plus the data shows neither wages nor employment have been keeping up with inflation. So in fact this is likely to just exacerbate the misery, as it has been. Further, housing prices are unlikely to "reverse" in real terms (they never have after a bubble has peaked, regardless of inflation) and perhaps not even nominal terms. ARMs would mean that lots of people's payments would go up. All this means the Fed's maneuvers have even less to do with helping out homeowners than you might think.

In US Fed To Blame for Global Food Crisis, Mike Whitney goes for the jugular:

The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America's attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. There are long-term reasons for food prices to rise, but the unprecedented spike in grain prices during the past year stems from the weakness of the American dollar. Washington's economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe....The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable.

Regrettably Whitney gets a bit sidetracked by railing at "speculators" -- who according to Whitney's own main point are simply acting rationally based on the Fed's rate manipulation. Speculators are simply doing what they've always done; the change here comes from the Fed. So who is really at fault?


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