It's kind of a big deal. Section 19 of the Coinage act of 1792 reads:
Section 19. And be it further enacted, That if any of the gold or silver coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint shall be debased or made worse as to the proportion of the fine gold or fine silver therein contained, or shall be of less weight or value than the same out to be pursuant to the directions of this act, through the default or with the connivance of any of the officers or persons who shall be employed at the said mint, for the purpose of profit or gain, or otherwise with a fraudulent intent, and if any of the said officers or persons shall embezzle any of the metals which shall at any time be committed to their charge for the purpose of being coined, or any of the coins which shall be struck or coined at the said mint, every such officer or person who shall commit any or either of the said offenses, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall suffer death.The death penalty kiddos. Here's the Library of Congress' facsimile of the act.
Here's Goldman's thinking regarding Bernanke's debasement, via ZeroHedge:
With just over a week left to the QE2 announcement, discussion over the amount, implications and effectiveness of QE2 are almost as prevalent (and moot) as those over the imminent collapse of the MBS system. Although whereas the latter is exclusively the provenance of legal interpretation of various contractual terms, and as such most who opine either way will soon be proven wrong to quite wrong, as in America contracts no longer are enforced (did nobody learn anything from the GM/Chrysler fiasco for pete's sake), when it comes to printing money the ultimate outcome will certainly have an impact. And the more the printing, the better. One of the amusing debates on the topic has been how much debt will the Fed print. Those who continue to refuse to acknowledge that the economy is in a near-comatose state, of course, hold on to the hope that the amount will be negligible: something like $500 billion (there was a time when half a trillion was a lot of money). A month ago we stated that the full amount will be much larger, and that the Fed will be a marginal buyer of up to $3 trillion. Turns out, even we were optimistic. A brand new analysis by Jan Hatzius, which performs a top down look at how much monetary stimulus is needed to fill the estimated 300 bps hole between the -7% Taylor Implied Funds Rate (of which, Hatzius believes, various other Federal interventions have already filled roughly 400 bps of differential) and the existing 0.2% FF rate. Using some back of the envelope math, the Goldman strategist concludes that every $1 trillion in new LSAP (large scale asset purchases) is the equivalent of a 75 bps rate cut (much less than comparable estimates by Dudley, 100-150bps, and Rudebusch, 130bps). In other words: the Fed will need to print $4 trillion in new money to close the Taylor gap. And here we were thinking the economy is in shambles. Incidentally, $4 trillion in crisp new dollar bills (stored in bank excess reserve vaults) will create just a tad of buying interest in commodities such as gold and oil...
Here is the math.
First, Goldman calculates that the gap to close to a Taylor implied funds rate is 7%.
Our starting point is Chairman Bernanke?s speech on October 15, which defined the dual mandate as an inflation rate of ?two percent or a bit below? and unemployment equal to the committee?s estimate of the long-term sustainable rate. The Fed?'s job is then to provide just enough stimulus or restraint to put the forecast for inflation and unemployment on a ?glide path? to the dual mandate over some reasonable period of time. Indeed, Fed officials have implicitly pursued just such a policy since at least the late 1980s.Next, Goldman calculates how much existing monetary, and fiscal policy levers have narrowed the Taylor gap by:
To quantify the Fed?s approach, we have estimated a forward-looking Taylor-style rule that relates the target federal funds rate to the FOMC?s forecasts for core PCE inflation and the unemployment gap (difference between actual and structural unemployment). At present, this rule points to a desired federal funds rate of -6.8%, as shown in Exhibit 1.3 Since the actual federal funds rate is +0.2%, our rule implies on its face that the existence of the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates has kept the federal funds rate 700 basis points (bp) ?too high.?
It is important to be clear about the meaning of this ?policy gap.? It does not mean?as is sometimes alleged?that policy is tight in an absolute sense, much less that it will necessarily push the economy back into recession. In fact, policy as measured by the real federal funds rate of -1% is very easy. However, our policy rule implies that under current circumstances?with the Fed missing to the downside on both the inflation and employment part of the dual mandate (and by a large margin in the latter case) ?a very easy policy is not good enough. Instead, policy should be massively easy to facilitate growth and job creation, fill in the output gap, and ultimately raise inflation to a mandate-consistent level.
The 700bp policy gap clearly overstates the extent of the policy miss because it ignores (1) the expansionary stance of fiscal policy, (2) the LSAPs that have already occurred and (3) the FOMC?s ?extended period? commitment to a low funds rate. We attempt to incorporate the implications of these for the policy gap in two steps.What does this mean for the real impact on the implied fund rate from every incremental dollar of purchases?...MORE
First, we obtain an estimate of how much the existing unconventional Fed policies have eased financial conditions. In previous work we showed that the first round of easing pushed down short- and long-term interest rates, boosted equity prices and led to depreciation of the dollar. Although our estimates are subject to a considerable margin of error, they suggest that ?QE1? has boosted financial conditions?as measured by our GSFCI ?by around 80bp per $1 trillion (trn) of purchases. Moreover, our estimates suggest that the ?extended period? language has provided an additional 30bp boost to financial conditions. A number of studies undertaken at the Fed similarly point to sizable effects on financial conditions. A New York Fed study, for example, finds that QE1 has pushed down long-term yields by 38-82bp. A paper by the St. Louis Fed also finds a sizable boost to financial conditions more generally, including equity prices and the exchange rate.
Second, we translate this boost to financial conditions?as well as the expansionary fiscal stance?into funds rate units. To do so, we attempt to quantify the relative impact of changes in the federal funds rate, fiscal policy and the GSFCI on real GDP. As such estimates are subject to considerable uncertainty we take the average effect across a number of existing studies (see Exhibit 2). With regard to monetary policy, the studies we consider suggest that a 100bp easing in the funds rate, on average, boosts the level of real GDP by 1.6% after two years. A fiscal expansion worth 1% of GDP, on average, raises the level of GDP by 1.1% two years later. Using existing studies to gauge the effects of an easing in our GSFCI on output is more difficult as other researchers construct their financial conditions indices in different ways. Taking the average across studies that report effects for the components of their indices?thus allowing us to re-weight the effects for our GSFCI? and our own estimate suggests that a 100bp easing in financial conditions increases the level of GDP by around 1.5% after two years.