Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stepped up to the plate to lead the Reserve at the beginning of February, but her time there is anything but new.
The Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes from 2008 were released Friday morning, giving a small glimpse into what was taking place behind the scenes during the worse economic downtown in a generation.
So where did Yellen stand during this pivotal point in time?
“In view of the intensified financial stress and the potential for more turmoil, obviously I think we will need to be flexible in setting policy going forward, and I am very concerned about downside risks to the real economy and think that inflation risk is diminished,” Yellen said.
Yellen opened her speech saying that her office has become more pessimistic about the economic outlook, as business continue to raise prices in response to past increases in commodity and import prices that boosted their costs.
However, she believed there was light at the end of the inflation tunnel due to a marked decline in commodity prices since June.
And even during the worst of time, Yellen managed to find the time to make a joke—albeit a poorly timed joke.
But even the Fed could probably use a good laugh during the severe economic times. After all, we all know how the story turns out.
She explained that cutbacks in spending are widespread, especially for discretionary items.
“For example, East Bay plastic surgeons and dentists note that patients are deferring elective procedures. Reservations are no longer necessary at many high-end restaurants. And the Silicon Valley Country Club, with a $250,000 entrance fee and seven-to-eight-year waiting list, has seen the number of would-be new members shrink to a mere thirteen,” She joked.
In the end, Yellen sided with the Alternative B plan.
“Under the version of alternative B distributed yesterday evening, the Committee
would hold the target funds rate constant at this meeting, and the statement would
suggest that the Committee sees the risks to growth and inflation as roughly balanced,” the minutes revealed.
Participants in the meeting sided with Alternative B if they believed that this combination is appropriate for the meeting, if their modal outlook for the economy has not changed much since the last meeting and if they judge that the upside risks to inflation have diminished, given the sharp drop in energy prices, the decline in indicators of inflation expectations, and the greater economic slack implied by the recent unexpectedly sharp jump in the unemployment rate.