The Return of Inflation

Inflation is not dead. It is not gone. It has not been tamed. We know it seems like it, especially after the past few decades which generated in many an "inflation-complacency" that feels justified. After all, following the 2008 Financial Panic, many predicted Quantitative Easing would cause hyper-inflation.

When the Fed boosted the Monetary Base by more than $3 trillion dollars during Quantitative Easing 1, 2 & 3, and the federal budget moved to a huge deficit, gold and silver commercials proliferated. So did predictions of a collapsing dollar.

But inflation never came. Since the end of the 2008-09 financial panic, the Consumer Price Index has increased by an average of just 1.7% per year, falling short of the Fed's (conjectural) 2% target. So, what happened?

The answer: Boosting the monetary base is not the same as boosting the amount of money circulating in the economy. Milton Friedman taught us to watch the M2 measure of the money supply.

During the first period of QE, from 2008 to 2016, the Fed bought trillions of dollars of bonds, but also increased bank regulation and capital requirements. As a result, banks ended up holding excess reserves and the money supply remained calm, with M2 growing, on average, about 6% per year, similar to the growth rate in the 1990s.