Best Of: How the Fed Is ‘Shaking the Entire System’
On Monday, First Republic Bank folded before being sold by regulators to JPMorgan Chase. At the time, it was the 14th largest bank in the U.S. and it is the second-largest American bank by assets to ever collapse.
The story of First Republic’s fall is similar to that of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature before it – the value of the bank’s assets began to plummet as the Fed raised interest rates to fight inflation, causing a crisis of confidence among investors and depositors.
This is exactly the kind of situation that the economic historian Adam Tooze warned of when he came on the show in October of 2022. In that conversation, Tooze argued that the Fed’s interest rate hikes were “shaking the entire system” – putting pressure on every level of the global financial system, from regional banks to countries that borrow on the U.S. dollar. It would only be a matter of time, he predicted, before things started breaking.
Well, things are certainly breaking now, and it’s very possible there’s more to come. The Fed decided to raise interest rates once again on Wednesday, bringing them above 5 percent for the first time in more than 15 years. So it felt like the right time to revisit our conversation about the fragile, uncertain future of the global economy at this history-making moment and the Fed’s role in it.
We also discuss what the British financial market meltdown means for the rest of the world, how the interest rate hikes in rich countries export inflation to other countries, the looming possibility of a global recession, why Tooze believes the confluence of high inflation, rising interest rates and high levels of debt points to an economic “polycrisis” unlike any the world has seen, why countries in South Asia are experiencing a particularly severe form of polycrisis, how the Fed should weigh its mandate to bring down inflation against the global consequences of its actions, why he believes analogies to the American inflationary period of the 1970s are misguided and more.
Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, a previous version of this episode featured the wrong audio file. The episode is now updated with the correct audio.
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Youthquake by Edward Paice
Slouching Towards Utopia by J. Bradford DeLong
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This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Rollin Hu, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Original music by Isaac Jones. Mixing by Jeff Geld. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin, Kristina Samulewski, Jason Furman, Mike Konczal and Maurice Obstfeld.