By the time this piece goes to print, the U.S. Federal Reserve's (Fed) Open Market Committee (FOMC) will have decided upon a new Federal Funds Target Rate or will leave it unchanged. I have argued many times that the Fed is restrained in its abilities to act, especially during Donald Trump's presidency. In light of all the uncertainty in Washington right now, I will spare you, my readers, even more uncertainty and describe to you what the Fed will say before it has said anything.
If you have read my column in the past, you know that I have described the actual unemployment situation in the U.S., contrary to the headline numbers that the media loves to quote. The unemployment rate in the U.S. is at a 40-year high. Never since the Jimmy Carter administration have we seen more able-bodied Americans been out of a job. In the decade following Carter's loss to Ronald Raegan, we saw income inequality increase on a consistent basis, picking up considerably in the mid-1990s. This has led to the consistent redistribution of wealth straight into the hands of the very few. With the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, this mass migration of money from the poor to the rich will only continue to get worse. The 5-4 majority in the 2010 landmark case ruled that corporations have just as much say in politics as people do and, in doing so, made political activism a part of everyday corporate life.
Political activism and the ability to lobby government officials to adopt policies that are advantageous for corporate needs is a concept that should be taught in business schools, alongside such fundamentals as accounting and finance. If corporations are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on government lobbying, then the internal rate of return decisions and the implementation of one business decision over another, need to also be included as an option in government lobbying. Option 1: Buy land to build a new factory. Option 2: Lease the land and build a new factory on that land. This is the typical IRR decision business school students are asked to make and, depending on interest rates and other factors, one option becomes more profitable than the other. In 2017, a third option should be discussed as it is as important as the first two. Option three is: Spending millions of dollars on government lobbying to get the land for free and to receive a grant to build your factory.
This is the world we now live in. Is this corruption? Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the justices that ruled in favor in the case, Clarence Thomas, is married to Virginia Thomas, a long-time lobbyist for conservative groups that fought for the Citizens United ruling. In other words, multi-billion dollar corporations are free to pay relatives of Supreme Court justices and politicians. Those same politicians and justices will decide the fate of many of these corporations. In such a system how can income inequality do anything but increase? Does the little guy have any chance at justice?
These same aforementioned politicians are the same people who appoint the decision makers of the FOMC. When viewed through this lens, it should come as no surprise that the Federal Reserve's decisions will hardly place the needs of the working class ahead of those of the very elites that "run" the country. If you think this is an indictment against the motivations and scruples of those that sit on the Federal Reserve's policy-making committee, you may have misunderstood my words. The hurdles that exist that make some people ineligible to become members of the FOMC allow the potential candidates of the committee to be nearly of one mind. For this reason, the majority of FOMC decisions are almost always unanimous. It is not that the officials are corrupt, it is that they have been chosen for their beliefs - beliefs that will further the interests of the very people that funded the politicians that appointed them.
In other words, the Fed's decisions will almost always be in line with the needs of major corporations. All one needs to do to predict the Fed's decisions, therefore, is to ask what is good for corporations. The answer to that question now is continued low-interest rates coupled with suspension or even the delay of winding down the Fed's balance sheet. This is exactly what will happen at the FOMC now and this will continue until it no longer serves the interests of corporations.