High Gas Prices and The Fed
On Saturday night's Fox News special "Paying at the Pump," host Eric Bolling offered a "Top Secret" plan to bring down the high cost of gasoline. Mr. Bolling insisted that the government should significantly raise margin requirements on oil traders in order to curb speculative trading, which would hence drive down the price of domestic crude.
This is a flawed idea. Big American investment banks and speculators can buy and sell oil futures wherever they want, like the London-based Intercontinental ICE. Most, however, use the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Over 1 million light sweet crude contracts are cleared daily on the CME, and raising margin requirements would simply send that volume to other exchanges overseas, like London, Hong Kong and Singapore. The result would be one more segment of our economy being outsourced.
The meteoric rise in gas prices is not a matter of energy policy. It is not a matter of environmental policy. It is not a matter of commodities futures regulatory policy. It is a matter of monetary policy. In the last three years, the Federal Reserve has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy. The result is an economic phenomenon called inflation. History has shown that when there is a lot of money in circulation, prices tend to rise, and not just gasoline -- milk, cereal and ground beef have all gone up in price recently.
Monetary policy is determined by the Federal Reserve Bank. At a February 2011 Congressional hearing, Representative Ron Paul asked Fed chief Ben Bernanke one question: "What is your definition of the dollar?" Mr. Bernanke did not know.
When the most powerful central banker in the world does not know how to define a dollar, we're in big trouble. "It's the buying power of the dollar which is what is important," he eventually stammered. "Consumers don't want to buy gold; they want to buy food and clothes and gasoline."
In order for Chairman Bernanke to understand why Americans can't buy much "food and clothes and gasoline" anymore, he must first learn what a dollar is. A dollar is a measure. Like a clock measures time, a yardstick measures distance, or a thermometer measures temperature, a dollar is a measure of value. A dollar bill is a unit of account; a store of value. Dollars represent the value of a good or service purchased on the open market. As a medium of exchange, money is a measure of the value of goods and services -- like a benchmark. Easing the money supply causes monetary inflation. Tightening the money supply would curb inflation, hence bringing down gas prices. And now might be a good time to raise interest rates a basis point or two -- just in time for the summer driving season.