Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Global famine? Blame the Fed


One way or another the US is going to bring the whole world down. It doesn't just require bombs.

At least that's the contention of Mike Whitney writing in the Online Journal.
The stakes couldn't be higher for Ben Bernanke. If the Fed chief decides to lower rates at the end of April, he could be condemning millions of people to a death by starvation.

The situation is that serious. Food riots have broken out across the globe destabilizing large parts of the developing world. China is experiencing double-digit inflation. Indonesia, Vietnam and India have imposed controls over rice exports. Wheat, corn and soya are at record highs and threatening to go higher still. Commodities are up across the board. The World Food Program is warning of widespread famine if the West doesn't provide emergency humanitarian relief.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said it best: "It is a massacre of the world's poor. The problem is not the production of food. It is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis."

Right on, Hugo. There is no shortage of food; it's just the prices that are making food unaffordable. Bernanke's "weak dollar" policy has ignited a wave of speculation in commodities which is pushing prices into the stratosphere. The UN is calling the global food crisis a "silent tsunami," but its more like a flood; the world is awash in increasingly worthless dollars that are making food and raw materials more expensive. Foreign central banks and investors presently hold $6 trillion in dollars and dollar-backed assets, so when the dollar starts to slide, the pain radiates through entire economies. This is especially true in countries where the currency is pegged to the dollar. That's why most of the Gulf States are experiencing runaway inflation. This doesn't mean that oil depletion, biofuel production, over-population, and giant agribusinesses don't add to the problem. They do. But the catalyst is the Fed's monetary policies; that's the domino that puts the others in motion.

I don't know if I'm convinced the "weak dollar", though exacerbating this and other world problems, is the tail wagging the dog. Its a factor of course, but taking food stocks and arid lands to produce biofuels quickly and directly affects food costs.

The headline links to the source.

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