What goes up must come down
spinnin' wheel, got to go 'round
Talkin' 'bout your troubles, it's a cryin' sin
Ride a painted pony, let the spinnin' wheel spin
-Blood, Sweat & Tears
On a day where the (Victim of the Day) wheel stopped on women, the world's most powerful woman on this planet was the 5 feet, 3 inches tall, chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen. For me, it was not just the continued effort to appease Wall Street while tapering off quantitative easing, but it was her tightening grip on the monetary agency. We knew the Fed would try to have its cake and eat it too, but lately there has been a louder-than-normal dissent.
So, the question coming into the day is how unifying would the message of the Fed be, as it takes the tiniest of steps to reduce the most extraordinary measures upon which it has ever embarked.
There it was in the minutes of the March 18-19 meeting:
With respect to forward guidance about the federal funds rate, all members judged that, as the unemployment rate was likely to fall below 6-1/2 percent before long, it was appropriate to replace the existing quantitative thresholds at this meeting.
All the members of the Fed agreed to move away from its previous threshold of 6.5% unemployment as a trigger for changing policy course. This is a big deal, since that number could hit relatively soon, although the better news would be that the rate was moving higher, as more people bought back into the notion of hitting the bricks and finding a job. Nevertheless, the Fed could not take any chances. The great epiphany moment, when everyone decided to find a job, has been very elusive thus far.
Since the truth is unless people buy into that idea, then there's a chance a person could view employment as taking an economic step back by missing all those juicy quick benefits of cooling their heels on the sidelines by climbing that proverbial ladder, making the unemployment rate mean nothing. The real rate is still north of 10% and the long-term unemployed rate is stubbornly near four million people. It is odd that the Fed played that unemployment game in the first place.
Wheel of Victimhood
Soon, those long-term unemployed persons will be back in the spotlight with talk of yet another long- term benefit payout. However yesterday, it was all about inequality and women. The "Equal Pay Day" bill (S. 84) of the 113th Congress failed to pass the Senate, sparking the debate on the 'War on Women.' The bill was a gimmick and at the end of the day, another devised act meant to cover for a lackluster economy. While much has been made this week about women earning $0.77 for every dollar a man earns, other parts of the story remain untold.
I must admit I was surprised when the Washington Post commemorated the White House because while still earning less than men, women made a little more than 77%. There are some legitimate issues and there are pockets of bona-fide inequality, but the solution is not a bogus bill, but an honest assessment with the appropriate application of pressure. Pew Research actually found that the wage gap was mostly a function of women dropping out of the workforce to care for children then coming back after their male counterparts had moved up the ranks.
Pew also found in addition, age played a major role in the work place; that the gap was $0.84 overall, and $0.93 for younger women.
Wheel of Fortune
Despite all the efforts of the Fed, their easy money hardly had the impact on Main Street they hoped. In February, there was an $18.9 billion jump of non-revolving credit (auto and school loans), but credit card debt was down $2.42 billion, as Americans simply refuse to get into hock as they were before the crash.
The wheel keeps spinning, and while the laws of gravity ensure that what goes up must come down in the stock market, it does not have to stay down. Nonetheless, the Fed has to find a way to unwind its reckless moves, while at the same time the Federal government must whittle down that $17 trillion mountain of debt. I suspect that both would be easy in an environment where money was flowing from the pockets of earners, rather into the pockets of those being paid to watch the parade from the sideline. The Fed thinks it can stay accommodative (read keep rates at zero) as long as there is no inflation.
If people are not working, paychecks are not increasing, and jobs are not materializing, then there cannot be too much money chasing too few goods and services. Hence, no inflation and the Fed can take a spin of that wheel of chance that its balance sheet will not collapse, and take the entire nation down with it. Ride that painted pony...