Saturday, April 18, 2009

Volcker vs. Kohn on Inflaton

by Bill McBride on 4/18/2009 03:04:00 PM

From Dow Jones: Heavyweights Kohn,Volcker Spar Over Inflation Goal

Paul Volcker grilled [Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn] over the Fed's apparent effort to convey that it considers a roughly 2% inflation rate to be appropriate for the economy in the long term.

Former Fed Chairman Volcker ... questioned how the Fed can talk about both 2% inflation and price stability. ...

In the minutes of its January policy meeting, the Fed said ... 2% inflation would be ... price stability.

"I don't get it," Volcker said ... By setting 2% as an inflation objective, the Fed is "telling people in a generation they're going to be losing half their purchasing power," Volcker said. ...

Kohn responded that by aiming at 2%, "you have a little more room in nominal interest rates ... to react to an adverse shock to the economy."

"Your problem is 2[%] becomes 3 becomes 4," Kohn told Volcker. But other central banks with a roughly 2% target haven't had that problem, Kohn said.

Fed officials, he added, "need to be clear about why we're choosing the number we're choosing."
And Volcker on Congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve, from Bloomberg: Volcker Says Fed’s Authority Probably to Be Reviewed
“I don’t think the political system will tolerate the degree of activity that the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Treasury, has taken,” Volcker [said] ...

U.S. lawmakers from both political parties have expressed concern in recent months that the central bank has overstepped its authority by creating several emergency credit programs aimed at reviving lending and ending the recession.

“I think for better or for worse we are at a point where the Federal Reserve Act, after all that has been happening in the last year or more, is going to be reviewed,” Volcker said.