Australia Gets a New Leader for Life
It’s the country that defied the global downturn. The one that drove the 2010-13 ‘once in a century’ mining boom for Australia. The same country trying to create a capitalist culture without losing its communist regime.
Make no mistake — the Chinese economy is an experiment. Authorities are desperately trying to mimic free Western markets and maintain their strong hold on the people simultaneously.
On Sunday evening, China’s President Xi Jinping took one step away from Western ideals by laying out his grand plan: Xi wants to put an end to a two-term presidency.
In other words, the leader in power gets the chance to be a leader for life.
And being that Xi is in top spot, the new regime will start with him.
Of course, it’s an easy sell to the people of China.
Xi implies it’s ‘better the devil you know’ in his speeches, pointing to the fractured political systems of America and Australia as proof.
Back in October last year, Jim Rickards told our publisher this would happen. Jim said it was not a matter of if, but when.
Jim then followed this up by emailing me late last night. I awoke on Monday to a personal email from Jim, with the brief note, ‘Xi is working towards becoming the new Mao.’
Jim has explained in the past how Australia has hitched its wagon to the Chinese economy. What the middle kingdom does ultimately defines what happens here. This power play from Xi will have an incredible effect on Aussies. Over the coming months, Jim and I will explore this new supreme power, and what it means for Aussies.
Today, Jim explains how an old friend of his has taken up a post at the Federal Reserve Bank. The timing couldn’t be better. Now, thanks to Jim’s connections, we have a greater understanding of what the US central bank gets up to.
Co-editor, The Daily Reckoning Australia
An Insider’s Insider to
Advise the Fed
By Jim Rickards, Strategist
I’m talking about the news that Jon Faust will be a part-time adviser to new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.
Your first reaction upon reading this is probably, ‘Who’s Jon Faust, and why should we care if he’s advising the Fed?’
The answer is that Faust is an ‘insider’s insider’ at the Fed.
He’s the most powerful monetary expert that no one has ever heard of. He’s actually one of the top monetary economists in the world. Knowing Faust’s backstory is the key to knowing what Fed monetary policy will be going forward.
Source: Silver Bear Cafe
Faust is a monetary economist with a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley — the same school where Janet Yellen taught for many years. Faust’s thesis adviser was Janet Yellen’s husband, the Nobel Prize winner George Akerlof.
Few economists are as close to Yellen as Faust. The same is true of Bernanke, who holds Jon Faust in the highest regard.
From 1981–2006, Faust worked as a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC, eventually rising to assistant director of the Division of International Finance. In 2006, Faust left the Fed to become director of the Centre for Financial Economics (CFE) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
I was one of the original benefactors of CFE, and in that capacity was involved, along with others, in recruiting Jon to join CFE from the Fed. He happens to be a friend of mine. I know him well. A long profile of my discussions and interactions with Jon over the years is found in Chapter Six of my most recent book, The Road to Ruin.
Setting the stage for ‘no surprises’ rate policy
In 2012, Faust was named ‘special adviser’ to the Federal Reserve Board at the request of then-chairman Ben Bernanke. He remained in that role until August 2014, a period that covered the transition from Bernanke to the new Fed chair Janet Yellen in February 2014.
Faust’s Fed tenure from 2012–2014 included critical developments such as the launch of QE3, implementation of the ‘taper’ from 2013–2014, and preparation for the interest rate ‘lift-off’, which finally arrived in 2015 not long after Faust left.
Faust’s main task, as requested by Bernanke and continued by Yellen, was communication on monetary policy. This did not mean communication in the usual sense of public relations or press liaison. It meant communication about monetary policy to manage market expectations.
Bernanke wanted a ‘no surprises’ policy at the Fed. Bernanke might’ve wanted to ease policy, as he did with QE3, or tighten policy, as he did with the taper. Either way, Bernanke wanted to signal any policy changes far in advance, gauge market reaction, manage market expectations, and, above all, avoid shocks or surprises.
Bernanke relied on Faust to manage market expectations — some might say ‘manipulate’ expectations — through various communications channels. These channels include Fed statements, speeches by Fed governors, planted questions at press conferences, leaks to favoured reporters (such as Jon Hilsenrath at The Wall Street Journal), and exquisite word choices such as ‘patient’ to describe future Fed policy on rate hikes, all under the banner of ‘forward guidance’.
In order to carry out his communications duties, Faust had to be intimately involved with the creation of monetary policy itself. He was Bernanke’s brain, if you want to think of it that way. Bernanke confirmed this to me personally when I spoke to him in Seoul, South Korea, about Faust’s role.
Incidentally, when Bernanke left and Yellen took over, Jon continued and he was Yellen’s brain. Faust’s office was immediately adjacent to Bernanke’s and Yellen’s offices, in the corridor leading from the Fed boardroom on the second floor of the Fed’s headquarters on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC.
Bernanke and I joked about the fact that the Fed recruited Faust away from CFE after I had helped recruit Faust from the Fed. Bernanke laughed and said, ‘Yes, but we gave him back to you.’ True enough. In September 2014, Jon returned to CFE to resume his academic duties as director of the centre.
Then last week, as noted above, Faust was tapped again by new Fed Chairman Jay Powell to return to Washington as his adviser. I got a communication from Jon at the time, letting me know.
The significance of this announcement for monetary policy cannot be overstated. For one thing, Powell is not an economist; he’s a lawyer by training. This means he will be even more dependent on Faust’s advice than Bernanke or Yellen, both of whom are among the top monetary economists in the world. So now Jon’s going to be Jerome Powell’s brain and even more so, because Powell is not an economist.
More importantly, the return of Jon Faust means continuity with the policies of Bernanke and Yellen. This means ‘gradual’ tightening of monetary policy, defined as 0.25% rate hikes every March, June, September and December until early 2020, unless one of several factors causes the Fed to take a ‘pause’.
Those pause factors are job losses, disinflation, or disorderly market declines.
My insider on the board makes forecasting easy
There are many corollaries and addenda to this baseline scenario. These additional insights include the role of the ‘dots’ in Fed decision making, the role of regional reserve bank presidents in policymaking, the need to deflate asset bubbles, and the strike price on the ‘Fed put’ when it comes to collapsing markets.
Again, nobody is more of a Fed insider than Jon Faust. He’s not on the Board of Governors. He’s not the chairman or the vice chairman. But he’s the brains behind a lot of the messaging involving QE and now QT.
Jon Faust helped to create and implement these rules, exceptions and ancillary policies. He has explained all of them to me in private conversations over the years. I have added Jon’s advice to other insights I gained in my conversations with Fed governors, chairs and vice chairs, Fed economists, and regional reserve bank presidents.
The good news is that the highly refined Fed forecasting models I have developed since 2013 will be valid for the foreseeable future. That’s going to make it just as easy to read the Fed.
We’re going to have enormous continuity. Jon Faust’s return to the Fed will make sure of that.
All the best,
For The Daily Reckoning Australia