Addicted to Credit

October 23, 2009

The Federal Reserve’s expansionist monetary policies are the equivalent of giving an alcoholic another drink or the heroin addict another fix, according to Dr Marc Faber, also known as Dr Doom, and a fierce critic of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.

“This is not solving the problem – it is just treating the symptoms,” he said, speaking at the CFA Institute’s European Investment Conference in Frankfurt on Thursday.

Faber blames Greenspan’s decision to hold interest rates at artificially low levels for precipitating the housing bubble and sees Bernanke repeating the mistake in the current crisis. “The Fed seems to ignore the fact that one of the causes of this crisis was the amount of leverage in the system. This is a credit-addicted economy.”

He sees central bankers as having become hostage to inflated asset markets and questioned how sustainable the next boom would be given that it was simply storing up more debt. Total US debt to GDP is now at 375 percent, without including the contingent liabilities from Medicare and Medicaid. Faber sees this having serious implications for inflation.

“When the Fed should be increasing rates, interest payments on government debt will balloon. In five years’ time some 30-40 percent of US tax revenues will go on servicing that debt,” he said. “Where will they get that money? They will have to print it.”

But as Faber cheekily pointed out, if printing money and increasing debt made you rich, then Zimbabwe would be the richest country in the world.

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