Full transcripts of the Fed’s monetary policy meetings are normally made available to the public on a five-year delay. Which is to say that when the calendar turned to January 2013, we got the 2007 transcripts. Today is Feb. 19, 2014, and there are no FOMC transcripts from 2008.
This is of particular interest because 2008, as you recall, was a year of some consequence for central banking and the global economy. We are now accustomed to debates about QE, fiscal stimulus, bailouts, etc. But back in the summer and fall of 2008, the United States was not at the zero bound or in a “liquidity trap.” Ordinary monetary policy rules applied. And in its June 25 statement, the FOMC declined to cut interest rates. In its Aug. 5 statement, the FOMC again declined to cut interest rates. In its Sept. 16 statement—a day after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt—the FOMC again declined to cut interest rates.
The minutes and the statements confirm that in all three cases the Fed saw itself as balancing worry about an economic downturn with worry about inflation driven by rising commodity prices. In retrospect, this looks like a blunder. And indeed a fellow named Ben Bernanke once wrote a good paper about how it’s a mistake for central banks to try to use monetary policy to smooth commodity price fluctuations. So it would be interesting to know what people were actually saying in these meetings. Which is why transcripts are supposed to come out.
So where are they?