The Fed’s interest rate policy committee meets eight times per year, about every six weeks. In the days leading up to each meeting, and in the immediate aftermath, breathless TV commentators dissect the nuance of every word that comes from the mouth of a Fed governor or other voting member of the rate committee.
Chairman Jay Powell’s answers at the press conference that follows every other committee meeting are also put under a microscope to detect minute differences between what he says and what was said by him or a predecessor on some prior occasion. Above all, the “dots” (anonymous Fed officials’ projections on interest rates and growth shown as points on a grid), are debated, averaged, and projected for clues as to the future path of interest rates, economic growth and inflation.
All of this is done with the utmost seriousness as if the Fed actually knew what they were doing when it comes to inflation and interest rates policy. Guess what? The Fed has no clue what they are doing.
Their forecasts were abysmal from 2007 to 2016, and only slightly better lately because they finally realized that growth is not picking up as they had long hoped. Worse yet, the Fed’s assumed linkages among unemployment, inflation and interest rates bear no resemblance to the real world.
This is starting to become obvious even to the Fed. I’ve said all of this for years, but now the Fed is saying it themselves. This article reports on a recent speech by former Fed Governor Dan Tarullo, who said, “[The Fed does] not, at present, have a theory of inflation dynamics that works sufficiently well to be of use for the business of real-time monetary policymaking.”
Now they tell us. There’s a lot more in this article about how inflation is just an “average” of some prices going up and some going down for reasons unrelated to monetary policy.
The next time you hear a Fed-head discuss interest rates just remember they don’t know any more about it than you do; probably less.