When one thinks of the early 1950’s, things that often come to mind are fries and milkshake, muscle cars, Little Richard, and greased hair. Things that rarely come to mind are that the US and China were openly at war over a little piece of land called Korea, that the Treasury market did not exist, that short and long end rates were “fixed” by the Fed at 0.125% and 2.5% respectively, even as inflation was at the highest it has ever been in the post war period at over 20%. What absolutely never comes to mind, is that on March 3, 1951, the world as we know it changed forever, after a little noted event known as the Fed-Treasury Accord of March 3, 1951 took place, and mutated the role of the Federal Reserve, which set off on a path that would ultimately lead to the disastrous economic state the world finds itself in today.
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Oh and another thing that never comes to mind, is that while the current iteration of the Fed, various recent voodoo economic theories, and assorted blogs, all claim that excess bank reserves are never an inflationary threat, it is precisely two Federal Reserve chairmen’s heretic claims that reserves will light an inflationary conflagration, that forced then president Truman to eliminate not one but two Fed Chairmen, and nearly result in the “independent” Federal Reserve being subsumed by the Treasury to do its monetization and market manipulation/intervention bidding. Which then begs the question: who is telling the truth about the linkage of reserve accumulation to inflation – the Fed of 1951, or every other Fed since, now firmly under the control of the Treasury-banker syndicate. Because they can not both be right.
Why is March 3, 1951 such an important date? Because, more than anything, the confluence of events that led to the “Accord” signed on this day have extensive parallels to our current situation, as the attached paper by the Federal Reserve of Richmond shows in exquisite detail, yet 100% in reverse.
In a nutshell what happened in the late 1940s and early 1950s was that in the aftermath of WWII, and the outbreak of the Korean war, America found itself in a very odd situation… one never really encountered until today. The country had soaring inflation – as in real inflation, not just core inflation measured by hedonic adjustments and excluding all those thing that actually do go up in price. More importantly, it had the 1950’s version of ZIRP – only then it was called a peg, in this case of 0.375%, and subsequently 0.125% on short end Treasurys, and 2.5% on long-dated paper. In other words, the monetary situation in 1951 was one where both the short and long end of the curve were artificially boosted (think ZIRP and Twist), just so holders of Treasury paper (at that time only insurance companies as banks were not allowed to invest in TSYs) did not experience losses and get further “demoralized” in addition to the war that Truman was currently waging.