Yesterday, my wonderful wife and I met our new financial consultant. We have been using the same brokerage company for 15 years and for almost all of that time have had the same consultant, even after we moved to Arizona. He was based in the mid-Atlantic.
Our previous consultant left the brokerage late last year and in a rare mistake the company assigned our account to a consultant not licensed in Arizona. We decided to “move” our money to Arizona although it’s all under the same umbrella.
During the meeting our new consultant asked me what I thought of ChatGPT. I told him I thought it was scary and that such AI technology would permanently change society, and not for the better, within ten years. He said he thought it wouldn’t take that long. He could very well be right, of course.
Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. I told our consultant that I was glad I was in my 60s and retired so I didn’t think the negative implications of AI run amok would affect me too much.
In case he hadn’t read it, I sent the link to this post to long-time friend VM. We met in the early 1980s while in graduate school at the University of Delaware.
He worked as a Regulatory Economist for the local power company for many years and later joined the Economics faculty of our alma mater. He recently retired after more than two decades there, in part so he can pursue his real passion, numismatics. Here is his email commenting on the linked post.
My thought about the zero interest rate policy in response to the pandemic (which I agree was stupid) is that it was a throwback to what the Fed did in the financial crisis. Though it could be argued that zero interest rates were appropriate for the financial crisis, what made it such a disastrous policy this time around was that the pandemic was followed by massive fiscal outlays to address the economic decline. These fiscal outlays were NOT present during the financial crisis. Given the fiscal stimulus during the pandemic, there was simply no need for the Fed to follow a policy of accommodation (i.e. zero interest rates) especially given that the economic downturn in the economy had nothing to do with interest rates. It was a terrible mistake by the Fed – it stoked the inflation rate that was already beginning to climb – and then the Fed blundered again by thinking that the inflation was “transient”. It’s hard for me to believe that with all of the ivy league PhD’s at the Fed that they could be so inept.
And I’m sure you’ll agree with questioning the wisdom of the fiscal stimulus. Since when did it become the responsibility of government to make sure that everyone remains whole during an economic downturn? There are many legitimate hardship cases among lower-income individuals, but “no money sense” is also a primary driver for the condition many of these folks are in. (I see it in my own family.) Of course I have no interest in helping the guy that wants to smoke pot all day instead of doing something productive, but I also have no interest in helping the person that chooses to go out to dinner six days a week and ends up with in little money for much else. I have no interest in helping the guy who chooses to have a $75,000 Ford F350 for his daily 30-mile commute but has little money for much else.
A little belt-tightening never hurt anyone. We already have unemployment insurance for job losses and other larger programs to help the down-trodden. They have been in place forever. We shouldn’t have been throwing money at people that had no interest in economizing or getting more efficiency out of what money they did have. But government was anything but discriminatory when it was handing out money like candy during the pandemic. Add in the inevitable supply shocks that WERE a legitimate result of the pandemic and you have the perfect storm for inflation. I saw this in 2020. How could the Fed be so blind?
Of course, I agree with VM. The failure of SVB and other banks is, in part, due to the Fed making a hard turn regarding interest rates because it failed to see the need for a soft turn sooner. In any event, since a large part of current inflation is supply-driven, monetary policy is not a panacea for the situation. In the linked post, Musicus Interruptus, I wrote:
I believe that we need the Federal Reserve Bank as a lender of last resort when all hell breaks loose. However, the Fed has too much power to be wielded by mere mortals. I believe it was Milton Friedman who advocated increasing the money supply by a fixed amount, say 2.5%, every year. When recession hit, the increase in the money supply would soften the blow. When the economy heated up to the point where inflation was a risk, the modest annual increase would act as a brake.
Anyway, I wanted to share VM’s cogent and informed reply to the post. Sorry, no automobile material or pictures today.
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