We all know that Stock Market Crashes are bad. Investor wealth is destroyed. People can end up on the Street, And the “Social Net” can be stretched to breaking.
So why not have the government, or more specifically the Federal Reserve Bank, step in and buy stocks? That would support the markets and help avert a crash.
It was a question that recently came up in a discussion between Janet Yellen, the recently retired Chairman of the Fed, and several Kansas City Bankers.
And it's not the first time this question has come up, It's being asked more and more, as the role of both the Fed and the US Treasury in the economy continues to grow.
And why not?
To paraphrase another Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke: the wealth increase from a rising stock market creates a virtuous cycle upon which we can all benefit. Rising stock prices means greater prosperity for us all. And the implication is that the Federal Reserve should do all it can to encourage a bull market in stocks, even perhaps as Ms. Yellen has stated, that included the direct purchase of shares.
Today, such action by the Fed is not allowed. As there are laws that prevent such action.
However, the Fed has been allowed to purchase US Treasuries, and it has done so with abandon. Currently, the Fed is the single largest holder of Treasuries, with a current portfolio of Treasuries and Agencies of over $4 Trillion dollars worth.
Although the method is indirect, the primary purpose of this Strategy, called Quantitative Easing is to provide liquidity to support the economy through rough times.
There can be no argument, that one of the chief beneficiaries of this policy has been the Stock Market.
So its a short step from the indirect support of the market to just buying stock directly.
I think that this is a particularly pertinent question right now, as we continue down the Presidential Campaign.
This is the type of issue that divides that two ends of the political spectrum.The left side generally seeks to expand the role of government. And sees those in government as possessing special skills and attributes that enables them to manage such things as the economy and the stock market.
For those of us on the other side of the equation, the thought of centralized control over our life and wealth sends shivers up our spines.
We remember a 50 year War on Poverty, that has not produced any noticeable reduction in the poor.
A “ Just say no to drugs” program that hasn't gained momentum in over 30 years.
Or a “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” That proved not to be the case.
All great slogans, but little follow through.
The thought that these people would now manage the stock market, is well…concerning…