Our last chapter was about how the U.S. Federal Reserve was created and why. But it ended with an extreme example of how the universal central banking model works today.
As another domino threatened the house of cards holding up European banks, more money had to be pumped into Cypriot banks so their doors didn't close and rapid contagion wouldn't implode all of Europe, and then the world.
Only this time was different.
The European Central Bank (ECB) reached straight into Cypriot bank depositors' pockets and stole about $6 billion from them. The "how" isn't important. It's a simple equation, as revealed in Part V. Governments are the backstoppers of central banks; that's where their authority ultimately comes from.
Why did the ECB steal depositors' money? So they could turn around and lend that and more to the insolvent banks to keep them alive. It's the latest twist in the old "extend and pretend" game.
The big question is, how did banks get so big and so dangerous in the first place?
Or, how did stodgy traditional banking morph into "casino banking" on a global scale?
Here's how it started...
5 Things the Federal Reserve Hopes You'll Never Find Out
Most Americans assume the U.S. Federal Reserve is a powerful government institution that seeks only to safeguard the dollar, boost the economy and drive employment higher.
That's what the Fed wants you to think.
The illusion of the Fed as a stabilizing, positive government entity has more or less existed since its creation under dubious circumstances in 1913.
"It not only avoided the word bank, it cleverly implied federal, or government, control over the establishment of a pool of reserves that would backstop the new banking 'system,'" said Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani.
FOMC Meeting Message: Don't Blame Us for Sluggish Economy
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting concluded today (Wednesday) with one clear message to Washington: Thanks for the lousy economy.
Central bank members cited only "moderate" expansion in economic activity and a slow improvement in the stubbornly high unemployment level.
Acknowledging the economy is moving at an unhurried pace, the FOMC members pointed an accusing finger at Capitol Hill.
"Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth," the statement read. That remark was in direct reference to a deadlocked Congress, sequestration and its far-reaching impact.
A spate of fresh economic reports back that sentiment:
David Stockman: Thanks to the Fed, We're in "Monetary Fantasyland"
David Stockman, who served as budget director under President Ronald Reagan, is taking aim at a favorite target: the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Stockman minced no words in a Monday interview on FOX Business' "Varney & Co."
Speaking of the Fed, he told host Stuart Varney, "They have violated every rule of sound money that's ever existed. They've got the money market rates at zero. They have managed and rigged the entire yield curve so nothing is real out there. It's all trading against the Fed."
He said speculators will continue to invest as long as the Fed can hold the bond price up and the yield down "and keep shoveling out free overnight money."
"We're in a monetary fantasyland," Stockman said.
Why Crime Pays for "Too-Big-To-Fail" Banks
There's a reason why the first few installments of my What Everyone Absolutely Needs to Know About Money series have been about banks.
You need to know the truth about banks.
Why? Because they rob you.
Why? Because they can.
It's the Willie Sutton bank robber quote in reverse. Willie was asked, "Why do you rob banks?"
He famously answered, while in handcuffs, "Because that's where the money is."
But, banks can't keep robbing the public if they keep shooting themselves in their feet. That's where central banks come in.
Why We Can't Avoid Ben Bernanke's "Monetary Cliff"
When it comes to the Federal Reserve, an accurate "reading of the tea leaves" means paying attention to all of the fine print.
And while the markets cheered last week's FOMC meeting with yet another rally, a deeper look at Ben Bernanke's press conference left me with a slightly different take.
Sifting through the Fedspeak, it became obvious that the Fed is now lining up a "monetary cliff" that's bigger than the fiscal one we spent the last half of 2012 worrying about.
Let me explain...
Here's Where the Fine Print Gets InterestingAccording to the release from last week's meeting, the Fed will continue to purchase $85 billion of Treasury and agency bonds every month. Doing so, Bernanke explained that at some point he does expect to reduce that amount. However, he also explained that the recent string of good unemployment data (five months above 200,000 new jobs) wasn't enough yet for him to make the change.
The Fed also stated that it expects a "considerable period" to elapse between the conclusion of the purchase program and raising rates.
Interestingly, that matched with the intentions of the 19 Federal Open Market Committee members. Only a few expect to raise rates before the end of 2014, compatible with the current Fed outlook.
But here's where the fine print gets really interesting: All but one of the members now expects to raise rates in 2015.
What's more, they said once they start, they won't be shy. In fact, the average opinion would put rates at 1.35% by the end of 2015. It may not seem like much at first glance but that's actually quite a big move from six-plus years at zero. And further on into the future, the consensus long-term goal was for rates to hit 4%.
Of course, with inflation around 2%, my goal for the Fed funds rate would be higher than 4% and a lot higher than 1.35% by the end of 2015. But alas, I'm not the Fed chief.
The point is that with the Fed expecting the economy to grow steadily between now and then, and no immediate sign of even a slackening in bond purchases, the turn by the Fed supertanker in late 2014 and 2015 is going to be pretty abrupt.
In fact, chances are it will cause a big wake, and drown quite a few people who have become used to current policies.
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 5)
Chapter Four ended as a cartel of powerful bankers gathered on Jekyll Island to develop a plan for creating a central banking system which would work for their interests.
John Pierpont Morgan was no stranger to how central banks worked. He had witnessed their power firsthand.
Junius S. Morgan, Pierpont's father, became a partner at George Peabody and Company in 1854 and moved to London - where the American-born Peabody had been bankrolled by Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild. At the time, the rich and powerful Rothschilds exerted extraordinary control over the Bank of England.
George Peabody and Company rode the mania for railroad shares, whose prices in 1857 were benefiting from the Crimean War's impact on rising grain prices, which Western railroads transported in huge quantities.
But the good times didn't last.
Do We Really Need the Federal Reserve?
Last week I spent two days speaking to senior government officials and business leaders in Bermuda, which is one of the world's leading international insurance and reinsurance hubs. The men and women in the room are responsible for hundreds of millions in assets worldwide.
I spoke for over an hour on the implications and opportunities of the financial crisis (I'll have specifics for Money Morning readers next week).
As I was finishing up, I received one of the most provocative questions I've gotten in a long time from the darkness beyond the stage lights: "Does any nation really need a 'Fed'?"
The answer is, unequivocally, "no." Especially if it's modeled after the United States Federal Reserve.
The individual depositors who were the protected class when the Fed was originally formed are little more than cannon fodder today. Instead, the banks the Fed supports have become the protected few.
To be honest, I didn't always think this way. For much of my career, I took the Fed for granted, believing like millions of Americans that it was acting in our country's best interest.
Then I sat down with legendary investor Jim Rogers in Singapore a few years back at the onset of the current financial crisis. During our discussion, he pointed out several things that really made me think about the Fed and its role in not only creating this crisis, but making it worse.\
What You Absolutely Need to Know About Money (Part 4)
Chapter Three ended with the rise of J.P. Morgan and how he used chronic boom and bust cycles to his own great advantage. That brings us to the Panic of 1907.
The Panic of 1907 was a seminal event in the history of banking. It spawned the Federal Reserve System - but not immediately. There would be a long cloak-and-dagger affair before the Federal Reserve Act was signed into law - while Americans were distracted - two days before Christmas, on December 23, 1913.
How Congress was duped by many of its own, and how the public was blindsided into believing their government was creating a safer banking system is a testament to the power of private banks to run and, for their own profit, ruin America.
Here's how it all happened.
There's More Than One Way for the Fed to End QE
The market has been looking ahead to the inevitable end of the U.S. Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) program with considerable apprehension.
Most market observers expect the end of the Fed's QE asset-purchasing program to immediately result in a sharp sell-off in bonds and higher interest rates.
This is expected to hit the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market, where the Fed has been very active, quite hard.
As part of a policy to communicate more openly with the markets, Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Fed have been regularly launching QE exit strategy trial balloons into the market to see how quickly they get shot down.
The latest exit strategy that has been gaining traction is the idea of "tapering" QE asset purchases so that there isn't a sudden halt to supply of money flowing from the Fed into the Treasury and MBS markets. The markets seem to be pretty sanguine about the tapering idea, although there has been no specific suggestion on timing.
Instead, the markets have been concentrating on how the Fed will get rid of all of the assets it has accumulated on its balance sheet during the QE program.