Low Interest Rates: Correct Fed Policy


The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve correctly used Monetary Policy to try to turn the economy around, by keeping home mortgage interest rates at their lowest level in 40 years.

Congress created the Federal Reserve System with a Central Bank in 1913 to help prevent recessions and other economic downturns from turning into depressions. Since then, all National Banks have joined the system.

The Federal Reserve has the ability to set interest rates for loans to member banks. When the Fed sets low interest rates, members are able to make loans to the public at correspondingly low rates. The availability of cheap money theoretically allows the economy to expand, provided other factors line up correctly.

Low interest rates at the Fed also help the U.S. Government when short-term loans are needed. Since interest on these loans is later turned over to the U.S. Treasury, the Fed basically provides interest-free money to the government. The principal sums borrowed from the Fed are repaid by the government with money raised from publically sold Treasury Bonds. Interest on the bonds is paid by the U.S. Treasury, until the bondholders are satisfied.

The decision by the Fed to keep interest rates low helps the federal government in terms of the annual deficit and national debt, regional banks in allowing them to offer cheap money, and the public, by enabling them to borrow at relatively low rates.

If the Fed now raised interest rates, while the national economy is still struggling to get out of a deep recession, one consequence would be a contraction, and a worsening of the economic crisis. If the Fed imposed higher interest rates, they certainly would not help, and would likely make the housing crisis worse.

Currently, factors other than interest rates are keeping the housing market from expanding. The Fed should continue to keep interest rates low, until measurable improvements are seen in the housing industry, which unfortunately may take the better part of a decade, no matter who occupies the White House or the Congress.

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