Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Review: 'Fed Power: How Finance Wins' by Lawrence Jacobs and Desmond King

Fed Power: How Finance Wins
By Lawrence Jacobs and Desmond King

Review by David Wineberg

The basic problem is that while government is purposely structured to foster delays, obstruction and compromise, central bankers come to the Fed table “largely in agreement with the bankers’ view of the world.” They take care of their billionaire friends, and ignore the millions who lost their homes. The Fed is populated by bankers rather than career civil servants. Everyone there is looking for the jump to a far more lucrative post in banking. Your financial health and safety are of no concern, according to Fed Power.

Unlike any other body but the Supreme Court, the Fed is an independent government with the government. It bows to no one, makes investments at will, makes profits, and spends it at will. It (now) has the right to print money at will, buy whole banks and businesses when it feels the need, and supports the financial sector to the exclusion of all else. After all, big finance lobbies on the Fed’s behalf, continuously, so it’s only fair. In the context of the constitution of the United States, this is wrong.

There is precious little the Fed reveals about itself. Jacobs and King have collected what there is, and plowed through the minutes the Fed publishes – years after the fact. The book follows the history of the need for a central bank, and the milestones of the years since it came to be in 1913. In addition to everyone’s complaints about the Fed, they expand on these:
-The Fed is simply overtaking fiscal policy in the USA.
-Its scope creep over the decades has become a scope explosion as it takes over tasks and territory (notably from the Treasury Department) at will.
-It made 21,000 transactions on its own account between 2007 and 2009, totaling $7.7 trillion
-It, along with big finance, drains all the best brains away from innovation and industry, with its inequality-building salaries. With those brains, they produce literally nothing.
-The whole problem goes back to Herbert Hoover who amended section 13 (3) to allow the Fed to “act in unusual and exigent circumstances,” apparently without oversight, reporting or restriction.

The authors’ solution, which they mention throughout, is Canada. Canada’s central bank went through little of the crisis and debt and foreclosures that the US did, because it is professionally managed by career civil servants, who work in far more transparent circumstances, overseen by Parliament. The restrictions on banks and mortgages are far more stringent, yet far from crippling the financial sector, Canada’s six major national banks are among the biggest in the world, and big players in the US. Finally, the head of the bank, Mark Carney, was hired across the ocean to run the Bank of England, the first such appointment in history. They must think he knows something they (and clearly Americans) don’t.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.