Transcripts of the monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve from 2002–2008.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think, at the end of the day, alternatives A and B really amount to the same thing in terms of policy. So I could live with either, but on communication grounds, my own strong preference would be for B. I think it is important at this juncture for the FOMC to state very clearly what it wants the federal funds rate to be, that we want it to remain close to zero, and I think we best do that by specifying explicitly a rate or, as it is, a range. Both A and B eliminate the gap we have had between the target and the reality of where the funds rate is actually trading, but B eliminates that gap by embracing the current reality as desirable.

In contrast, it seems to me that A is saying that the Committee is all but helpless to affect the funds rate, so, after all, it would be a charade to set a target. Then it kind of acknowledges, well, but, you know, the funds rate trading near zero is really not such a bad thing, given the weakness in the economy. I think we have greater command over the funds rate’s destiny than alternative A suggests. If the Board and the FOMC really wanted to push the effective funds rate up above zero, say to 50 or to 100 basis points, the Board could choose to raise the rates paid on reserves and the discount rate, and we could get it up, even though we have all of this enormous quantity of excess reserves and even though interest on reserves isn’t working in quite the way we expected. I agree that it would be a bit odd to be setting the interest on reserves and discount rates above our target for the federal funds rate. But it seems to me it could be done, and we are not powerless to accomplish it. So I don’t like the suggestion that we are just helpless to move the funds rate. I think we should say that we don’t want to move the funds rate up. I don’t want it to trade above the 0 to 25 basis point errange. I certainly don’t want that. I think the forecast is grim. I think we should go as low as we can as fast as we can without harming the functioning of money markets, so keeping the funds rate trading in the 0 to 25 range is desirable. If it were to be the case, following President Lacker’s earlier question, that we suddenly saw the interest on reserves floor working better and fed funds started trading above 25—the funds rate could, for example, move up to 50 or so—I would hope that the Board would actually lower the interest rate paid on reserves to hold the funds rate in the 0 to 25 range. So I think we should go down and do it decisively in one step today.

On the other matters, in alternative B, paragraph 3, I favor including the bracketed language suggesting that we expect and are not happy to see inflation declining below levels we consider consistent with price stability. I agree with President Evans on the merits of doing that. I like the forward-looking language from A that has been added in bold to B concerning the odds that we will keep the funds rate low for some time. On the Treasuries, I am worried about making an announcement or giving a hint that we are not going to follow through on them pretty quickly. I am personally in favor of and support buying longer-term Treasuries, and I haven’t heard a lot of opposition to it. If we really are going to do it and do it pretty soon, I have no problem with including language to that effect. But I don’t think we should throw a hint out there unless we intend to follow through. With respect to the wording of the directive, I am happy with it. With respect to the issue about the monetary base and increasing the size of our balance sheet, I would endorse Governor Kohn’s remarks on that topic.

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