The Fed’s interest rate cut hurts the prudent

For those who think the Fed’s recent interest rate cut is an unmitigated good, read Allan Sloan’s recent Fortune article titled, “Heads I Win, Tails I Get Bailed Out; The reckless are getting relief from Bernanke. How does that work?”

I’ve blogged in the past about the moral hazard implicit in the Fed cutting rates. I believe the Fed’s large rate cut encourages imprudent risk taking.

But, I didn’t highlight how the rate cut hurts the prudent, and Allan Sloan does a great job of that. As Sloan puts it, the “recent interest rate cut has done a lot of harm to those of us who’ve managed our finances prudently.”

The Fed cut rates to calm market turbulence, and this was directed to helping the “players in the biggest trouble,” those “who’d taken the biggest fliers in junk mortgages, ultra-risky leveraged buyouts, and other financial esoterica that proved to be malignant.”

But, this rate cut not only helped the imprudent, it hurt the prudent. It hurt “those of us who keep score in dollars and didn’t need to be bailed out” because we are now “less wealthy than we were in terms of anything other than our home currency.”

Why? Because the rate cut “contributed heavily to the dollar’s recent sharp drop in the currency markets…and to the price spike in hard assets like gold, silver, copper, and oil.” In other words, prudent people’s wealth, in terms of dollars, is worth less relative to the things we want to buy with dollars.

Added to this, the rate cut caused long term and fixed mortgage rates up. Once again, this benefits the imprudent who gambled on floating rate loans and punishes the prudent who may be seeking fixed rate loans at what are now higher rates.

Those investors who stayed away from toxic waste and invested prudently are also being punished because the Fed’s bailout is helping toxic waste investors to the relative detriment of those who avoided subprime mortgage risks of all sorts (whether bonds, CDO’s, stocks, swaps, etc.).

Finally, the prudent get to bail out the imprudent in that our tax dollars will be used to bail out subprime borrowers, subprime lenders (like Countrywide), subprime investors, and the investment banks and rating agencies who should have known that subprime investments were junk.

As Sloan puts it, the Fed’s bailout allows the imprudent to play “heads I win, tails I get bailed out” whereas prudent investors get stuck with depreciated wealth, higher fixed rate loans, worse relative investment performance, and a higher tax burden.

If you’ve been imprudent over the last several years, you probably think the Fed’s rate cut is wonderful. But, for those of us who were prudent enough to avoid bad risks, the Fed’s rate cut is bad news.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

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