Paul Volcker, Window Dressing (Sadly)
[Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul] Volcker scoffs at the reports that he is losing clout. “I did not have influence to start with,” he said.
–Louis Uchitelle, “Volcker’s Voice Fails to Sell a Bank Strategy“; The New York Times(10/20/2009).
I don’t have many heroes, political or otherwise.
Teddy Roosevelt. FDR. Abraham Lincoln. (If you’re keeping score, that’s two Republicans and one Democrat.)
My list of living heroes is even shorter.
But Paul Volcker’s on it.
His leadership as Fed Reserve Chairman in the early ’80’s was perhaps the crucial piece in subduing inflation — which threatened to spiral out of control at the time — and thereby helped set the stage for an unprecedented 20 year-plus period of prosperity.
Now, he is on record recommending that too-big-to-fail financial institutions be broken up; that commercial banks, whose deposits are federally insured, not be allowed to use that money to make risky financial bets; and that credit derivatives be strictly regulated (and in many cases, banned).
Hard to argue with any of that.
But none of these proposals are going anywhere, because Volcker and others like him no longer have any power.
We are all poorer, in many ways, for that.
P.S.: Near the end of the Reagan administration, when Iran-Contra and other scandals were undermining Presidential authority, a satirical bumper sticker came out saying, “None of this would be happening if Reagan were still alive.” Today, substitute “Volcker” for “Reagan.”