Of course, after those attacks the Fed sought to forestall panic by lowering the rate further, to 1.25. If you only have a hammer (or only think you have a hammer) all problems look like nails.
Gravelle thinks it odd, though; that I should consider these repeated lowerings to be at all inflationary. She says that “accelerating inflation while at full employment, rather than low interest rates, should be the sign of easy money.” Huh? What, after all, is an interest rate? It is the rate at which one party allows another to use a certain sum of money over a specified period. Any lowering of interest rates indicates, ceteris paribus, that money has gotten easier to get: in other words, it is precisely a sign of “easy money.” Easy relative to what? Well, relative to the condition before that lowering of the interest rates, for a start. Relative to a healthy economic condition? That’s the 64 thousand/million/billion dollar question.
She cites Bernanke as an authority for the proposition that monetary policy was not "closely related to the principal trigger -- the housing finance crisis." My own concern isn't simply how was the trigger pulled, but rather how did we end up pointing a loaded gun at our collective heads in the first place? And since I regard Bernanke as part of the problem, not part of the solution, I hope she understands that I look elsewhere for counsel.
I look for instance, to Jurgen Stark, a central banker in good standing himself, specifically a member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, who delivered a paper to a meeting in Hong Kong in April 2011, in which he acknowledged and discussed with some candor the role of central banking in the financial crisis. He said that during the 1990s, a period of "great moderation," when monetary policy seemed to be working in just the way the textbooks said it should, trouble was actually brewing. Central bankers acquired the false "impression that the monetary policy battles of yesteryear had been won once and for all." Hubris, if you will.
My own view is that it will prove much easier to live without central bankers than it ever will to train central bankers who will be free of hubris.
When the Fed invoked what came to be known as the “Greenspan put” repeatedly in the 1990s, in effect it gave the US economy a few pills each time of Mother's Little Helper. This “shored up” wakefulness and attentiveness, but that didn’t make it a good thing. If you keep yourself awake artificially, the come-down, when it does arrive (and in the nature of things it will) must be that much more dramatic. In the literal instance, such as come-down from stimulants is known as … a crash. Intriguing term, no?
Let's look to Jurgen Stark's speech again. He said that the central bank activism of the 1990s could have encouraged "and did encourage, in my view -- markets' tendency to opt for risky strategies, over-exposures and exuberance." Yes, too much "shoring up" did that. The more perceptive of the central bankers see that themselves, these days.