Fed Releases Transcripts from 2008 Meetings

Go Lean Commentary

Photo - US Federal reserve Bank Building (1)This foregoing article is part of the process of post-mortem analysis, sometimes referred as “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” or “Armchair Quarterbacking”. This can be a helpful process as it allows for lessons-learned of previous episodes and the mitigation of future risk. This is the premise of the book Go Lean … Caribbean. This book, serving as a roadmap for change in the Caribbean region, posits that the effects of the 2008 Great Recession continue to linger. Therefore the book advocates lessons from 2008 and the implementation of reforms, re-boots and turn-arounds to steer the region to a better outcome.

The book is inspired by the words of famed American Economist Paul Romer, who coined the phrase: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”. The above article shows that this philosophy was also incorporated in the undertakings of many of the stakeholders battling the challenges of 2008 – they did not waste the crisis. Many things that were blatantly wrong in the macro economy before 2008 were corrected by this crisis. The “easy money” policies and NINJA (No Income No Job or Assets) loans of the 2000’s decade were abated. The financial industries have now moved back to more sound, fundamental lending principles.

By Dunstan Prial:

Transcripts from 2008 Fed meetings divulge publicly, for the first time, details of decisions made by the central bank during the height of the financial crisis. [US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke proposed two options: an emergency term securities lending facility and to expand and extend the currency swap lines with struggling European banks.

By late October, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the fire sales of several other large banks on the brink of collapse, the Fed had dropped interest rates to about 1% and introduced a host of other emergency measures. And Fed policy members were apparently quarreling over whether those measures and how they were communicated to the public were helping or harming.

At the Fed’s Oct. 28-29 meetings, Timothy Geithner, then president of the New York Fed, scolded some colleagues for suggesting the Fed’s bold moves were hurting broader confidence in the economy: “Now, a lot of things happened over the last three months and the last year, and a lot of things happened in terms of policy over the last six weeks. There is no doubt that communication about policy by all the arms of the U.S. government and the uncertainty created by the actions by all the arms of the U.S. government contributed in ways to uncertainty about the policy response going forward,” Geithner said.

“There is also no doubt that inevitably in a crisis like this, when policy moves forcefully, it is scary because a lot of people are not yet at the point of assessing or understanding the forces driving our decisions. But I think it’s just unfair to suggest that the actions by the Chairman and this Committee were a substantial contributor to the erosion in confidence and to uncertainty about further policy actions, even though it’s true that when we move with force and drama it has the risk of adding to uncertainty.”

Geithner was a key supporter of the activist measures taken by the Fed before being named Treasury Secretary after Barack Obama was elected in November 2008. The transcripts, which run into the hundreds of pages, reveal that this was the beginning a series of unprecedented measures taken by the Fed in an effort to stave off another Depression.

The 14 transcripts are from eight scheduled meetings and six emergency meetings of the policy setting Federal Open Market Committee, which sets the central bank’s monetary policy, including the level of short-term rates.

The transcripts do not include other meetings at which smaller groups of Fed officials, working with the Treasury Department, arranged the bailouts of bankrupt Bear Stearns, the American International Group (NYSE: AIG), and housing service entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Nor do the transcripts include notes from the meetings at which policy makers decided to let investment bank Lehman Brothers fall, which occurred in September 2008 and proved a key event at the outset of the crisis.

Fox Business News Online (Retrieved 02/21/2014) –http://www.foxbusiness.com/economy-policy/2014/02/21/fed-releases-transcripts-from-2008-meetings/

How about the Caribbean? Has the lessons been learned in and for this region? Have the blatantly wrong policies been abated? Has the markets returned to fundamentally sound policies?

Unfortunately, with the ever-expanding brain drain/human flight crisis in the Caribbean, the economic problems persist. Is it fair to conclude that when people move from the Caribbean to the US mainland, Canada or EU member-states, that there is some failure on behalf of Caribbean society? The Go Lean roadmap so declares, identifying “push-and-pull” underlying factors.

What qualifies the writers of this book to make these assessments?

Simple! They have lived the issues depicted in this foregoing news article and the Go Lean roadmap. The book is published by the SFE Foundation, a Community Development Corporation constituted by members of the Caribbean Diaspora. These are people who love their homeland, and would rather live, work and play there, but instead, find themselves toiling as alien residents in foreign lands. Principals of this foundation were also there in 2008, engaged with major stakeholders of the Global Financial crisis: Lehman Brothers, BearStearns. JPMorganChase, CitiGroup, etc. They were on the inside looking out, not the outside looking in. They were movers-and-shakers of the macro economy, not just armchair quarterbacks.


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