Yesterday’s dramatic Bank of England 1.5% rate cut was an extraordinary admission of analytical failure. The Monetary Policy Committee of orthodox economists (with Danny Blanchflower the honourable exception) is well behind the curve. While it is tiresome to beat one’s own drum, I am obliged to point out that on the 12th July I wrote a short piece for the Guardian beseeching the Bank of England not to “sacrifice the economy on the cross of inflation targeting”. Today’s numbers from the Insolvency Service reveal that more than 4,000 companies have been sacrificed. Company insolvencies have risen by 26.3% over a year ago, and by 10% over the last quarter. This represents the loss of a great deal of productive activity, and of thousands of jobs.
I do not have an army of economists undertaking research for me. Nor do I have the ample resources enjoyed by the Bank of England and the Treasury. And yet common sense, a cursory review of the direction of commodity prices, as well as a refusal to play the game of baiting workers demanding pay rises with threats of non-existent inflation – made the progress of prices perfectly clear. Inflation rises in the Spring were not caused by wage demands, but instead by a spike in internationally-fixed commodity prices. The coming financial meltdown was soon going to dampen demand for oil and other commodities, and force those prices down again. In the meantime high oil and commodity prices were exacerbated by high real rates of interest. The combination was threatening the solvency of companies, households and individuals.That much was obvious to me. Why was it not obvious to the Bank of England and the Treasury?
But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of yesterday’s rate cut was the fact that it may not have any real impact on other rates within the economy. Private and nationalised banks are cocking a snoop at both the Bank of England and the Treasury, and both appear impotent. This is worrying. When governments appear to lose control over the economy, people look elsewhere for leaders that will exercise some control over the economic forces that impact so detrimentally on their lives and livelihoods.
The Bank of England and the Treasury’s ideological fixations and fetishes continue to worsen this crisis. Is yesterday’s dramatic rate cut a sign that Old Lady of Threadneedle St. might be catching up? For the sake of us all, I sincerely hope so. But I fear it may be too late.