Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I favor alternative B with the proposed wording. Given the forecast and the risks around it, our next move on the funds rate is likely to be up, and the question is when. Assuming that the data on growth and inflation come in roughly as I and the Greenbook expect, I would envision beginning to remove policy accommodation toward the end of this year, similar to the assumption in the Greenbook. As I mentioned, I’m not very confident that the outlook for growth and employment has improved as much as the Greenbook assumes. I’m concerned that households and firms are in a python squeeze of an intensifying credit crunch and a continuing decline in housing wealth as well as pressures from surging food and energy prices. I think the economy has shown resilience so far, and that’s reassuring, but I don’t think it’s assured for the future. The aggressive policy actions that we have put in place since January are actually working to cushion the blow, and that’s part of the reason that we haven’t seen a greater unraveling so far.
I mentioned yesterday that, with respect to inflation, the behavior of both core inflation and wages thus far makes me optimistic that headline inflation will come down if commodity prices finally level off. But I think there’s no doubt that the risks with respect to inflation are not symmetrical at this point, and they have definitely increased. I still see inflation expectations as reasonably well anchored, but there’s no doubt that a wage–price spiral could develop, and dealing with it would be a very difficult and very painful problem for the Committee. So while I feel that we are essentially credible now, I wouldn’t want to take absolutely for granted that this is something that we can count on going forward.
At this point, the federal funds rate remains well below the recommendations of most versions of the Taylor rule. I have viewed this as appropriate, not largely as insurance against downside risk but simply in refection of the unusually severe pressures from collapsing wealth and tight credit and financial constraints. But it does seem to me to be appropriate going forward to at least take out some insurance against the development of a wage–price spiral mentality, and that could take the form of gradually removing that discrepancy from what, for example, a Taylor rule recommends. But before we begin to do that, it does seem to me that we should wait to get a somewhat clearer picture of where the real side is going.