Ever since the Federal Reserve began its first quantitative easing program in late 2008, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker has been warning that future inflation is going to run wild and doom us all. Nearly 5 years later, with inflation running at an average of 1.2% in the last four quarters, Lacker continues to warn us against the evils of coming inflation.
In a speech today, Lacker noted that in mid-2011 inflation had reached 2.8% and that unless the Fed is careful, inflation could return to somewhere around the FOMC’s target of around 2%. He does concede that part of the reason for the slow growth of U.S. GDP is the “sluggish” growth in what employees are paid.
Hourly earnings are up just 1.8% in the past 12 months, only slightly more than inflation. Perhaps a little more inflation would be a good thing.
Lacker does acknowledge that without more growth in earnings there will be less spending, even though the housing market — or at least news about rising house prices — is reviving “households’ confidence in the market value of their most valuable asset.” True enough, but so far there’s little evidence that consumers are willing to spend more on the basis of a few percentage points of growth in home values.
Lacker concludes with this: “Well-contained inflation, the most fundamental contribution a central bank can make to economic growth, seems likely to continue.” Lacker may not be happy, but he’s satisfied.