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The Fed's big recession fail

The Fed's big recession fail

If you didn’t read through the Federal Open Markets Committee transcriptsreleased last week, I beg you to go take at least a cursory look. Unless you have a weak heart.

Mine, I can tell you, almost shot right out of my chest when I read these passages in Binyamin Applebaum’s New York Times write-up on Saturday morning:

As Fed officials gathered on Sept. 16 [2008] at their marble headquarters in Washington for a previously scheduled meeting, stock markets were in free fall. Housing prices had been collapsing for two years, and unemployment was climbing.

Yet most officials did not see clear evidence of a broad crisis. They expected the economy to grow slowly in 2008 and then more quickly in 2009.

The transcript for that meeting contains 129 mentions of “inflation” and five of “recession.”

What?! On September 16, 2008, they didn’t see “clear evidence of a broad crisis”? Remember what happened on September 15? Lehman Brothers went under. The Dow was in free-fall. I don’t recall there being much doubt by the evening of the 15th that we were in a major crisis and at serious risk of a global financial meltdown of unprecedented scale. After all, it was that very day that candidate Barack Obama called the meltdown “the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.” And it’s not that he was demonstrating some kind of special acumen. It was obvious. This was also the same day that candidate John McCain issued the widely mocked and instantly infamous statement that “the fundamentals of our economy are still strong.”

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