Welcome to State-Run Capitalism

We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. It seems that investors pay as close attention to what the government is doing, as they do to actual business news. We don’t think investors are wrong to do this, but it’s only because government has become so big.

The US has moved from a simple Keynesian-type model to what we call “State-Run Capitalism.” When the economy turns soft, a typical “Keynesian” (demand-side) response would be to boost the budget deficit or print more money.

Now, the government is running permanent, and very large, deficits and using its budget to fund semiconductors, EVs, solar and wind energy generation, as well as redistributing more money to immigrants and students who are in debt. This all smells and looks like central planning…or State-Run Capitalism.

At the same time, because the Fed is now using an abundant reserve monetary policy, it has taken the financial system out of the process of determining short-term interest rates. Banks no longer need to trade excess reserves, so the federal funds rate has no real market. The Fed just makes that rate up.

So, here we sit in 2024, and a Wall Street Journal economics reporter, Greg Ip, just wrote a piece titled “The Economy is Great…”. We don’t think that’s really true, but real GDP did grow more than 3% last year and job growth has been robust.

A typical Keynesian response to this, the one most people were taught in economics class, would be for the government to run a surplus, or at least substantially shrink the deficit, and the Fed to be at least slightly worried about over-heating the economy.