FOMC Meeting

We Can't Just Sit Here Doing Nothing

Early in his tenure as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke promised to make the workings of monetary policy more transparent. By golly – that’s exactly what he’s done! We no longer read the minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee as if they contain hidden messages as to where policy might go in the future. We even bother to notice who is voting which way; gone are the days when every vote had to be unanimous because any no vote would be considered the equivalent of stabbing the Chairman in the back. These days, the people who vote no want their name out there in bright lights and their reasons spelled out in glorious detail.

The minutes released this week for the August FOMC meeting are a treasure trove of transparency. There is so much transparency because these people at the FOMC don’t know what to do. Some want more Quantitative Easing, but they don’t agree on the form it should take: add even more securities to the Fed’s gargantuan balance sheet (now equal to 4% of the entire GDP of the economy); or, sell some short term securities and buy long term securities in order to manipulate long term rates lower, yet keep the overall Fed balance sheet total unchanged.