Friday, October 10, 2008

Volcker: We Have the Tools to Manage the Crisis

by Bill McBride on 10/10/2008 09:01:00 AM

Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker writes in the WSJ: We Have the Tools to Manage the Crisis Excerpts:

Today, the financial crisis has reached a critical point. .... For months, the real economy, apart from housing, had not been much affected by the developing crisis. Now, a full-scale recession appears unavoidable. ...

Those are facts.

They are the culmination of economic imbalances, a succession of financial bubbles and financial crises that have been building for years. It's no wonder that confidence in markets, banks, and financial management has been badly eroded. Without effective action, fear might take hold, threatening orderly recovery.

Fortunately, there is also good reason to believe that the means are now available to turn the tide. Financial authorities, in the United States and elsewhere, are now in a position to take needed and convincing action to stabilize markets and to restore trust.

First of all, there is now clear recognition that the problem is international, and international coordination and cooperation is both necessary and underway. The days of finger pointing and schadenfreude are over. The concerted reduction in central bank interest rates is one concrete manifestation of that fact.

More important in existing circumstances is the clear determination of our Treasury, of European finance ministries, and of central banks to support and defend the stability of major international banks. That approach extends to providing fresh capital to supplement private funds if necessary.
...
The inevitable recession can be moderated. The groundwork can be laid for reconstructing the financial system and the regulatory and supervisory arrangements from the bottom up. The extraordinary interventions by the government (and taxpayer) should be ended as soon as reasonably feasible.

That rebuilding will be the job of another day ...

There is, and must be, recognition of the essential role that free and competitive financial markets play in a vigorous, innovative economic system. There needs to be understanding, in that context, that financial ups and downs -- and financial crises -- will be inevitable, even with responsible economic policies and sensible regulation. But never again should so much economic damage be risked by a financial structure so fragile, so overextended, so opaque as that of recent years.
Volcker has been warning about these problems for years, and he clearly believes we have the tools to "manage" the crisis. But do we have the leadership? The 2nd headline to his piece is: "Now we need the leadership to use them."