What has the Fed done to our money?
Before the Federal Reserve was established in 1913, the price level in the US enjoyed a slight decline over time even while employment was healthy and production high. Prices start to rise when the Fed is established. When FDR effectively untethered the Fed from a real gold standard in 1933, the dollar decline accelerated. The dollar fell off the cliff, though, when Nixon untethered it completely from any connection with gold in 1972. You can also see a blip when Lincoln printed greenbacks. And of course there is no separating money-printing from wars. Taxpayers are rarely willing to pay for wars with real money so their governments borrow and leave them on the hook. With the advent of the Fed, taxation by inflation was an even stealthier way to stick taxpayers with the cost of war: just print the money you need and let the price level rise on the poor wage-earner while owners of assets ride the wave.
And if you think that chart looks bad – notice it does not include Ben Bernanke’s nearly 6-fold increase in “high-powered” money, M1, which is slated to exceed $4 trillion by year-end. This money hasn’t been multiplied by banks yet – most of it is being held at interest as excess reserves with the Fed or being played with in proprietary trading (e.g., the London Whale). If banks start to lend at anywhere near normal levels, they will multiply the money supply by several times – that’s M3 & that’s when inflation will hit.