Lehman Brothers, the giant investment firm, declared bankruptcy in September 2008. The next day, the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee convened for a regularly scheduled meeting as markets wondered just how far Lehman’s collapse would ripple through the financial system.
Ben Bernanke, then Fed chairman, said he was “grappling” with the necessity of making ad hoc decisions about “moral hazard,” according to transcripts from the 2008 meetings, released Friday after a five-year lag.
“In each event, in each instance, even though there is this sort of unavoidable ad hoc character to it, we are trying to make a judgment about the costs — from a fiscal perspective, from a moral-hazard perspective, and so on — of taking action versus the real possibility in some cases that you might have very severe consequences for the financial system and, therefore, for the economy of not taking action,” Bernanke said at the Federal Open Market Committee’s Sept. 16 meeting.
“I am decidedly confused and very muddled about this,” he said.
Although we know now that the economy was going to continue its downward spiral, most FOMC members — including then-San Francisco Fed President and now-Fed Chair Janet Yellen — thought it was too soon to provide monetary accommodation in the form of further interest-rate cuts at that September meeting.
“My policy preference is to maintain the federal-funds rate target at the current level and to wait for some time to assess the impact of the Lehman bankruptcy filing, if any, on the national economy,” said St. Louis Fed President James Bullard. “I think we should be seen as making well-calculated moves with the funds rate, and the current uncertainty is so large that I don’t feel as though we have enough information to make such calculations today,” said Charles Evans, the Chicago Fed president.
Like Bullard and Evans, Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Fed, wasn’t a voting member at that September meeting. But he had a different take. “This is already a historic week, and the week has just begun”¦. The degree of financial distress has risen markedly,” Rosengren said. “Given that many borrowers will face higher interest rates as a result of financial problems, we can help offset this additional drag by reducing the federal-funds rate.”
The FOMC’s voting members unanimously stood pat at that September meeting’s conclusion, leaving the federal-funds rate at 2 percent. As the economy continued to unravel over the coming months, the Fed opted to act, cutting the rate to near zero when it met in December and ushering in a new era of monetary policy as the Fed turned to unconventional tools — like the three bond-buying programs it has since launched — to boost the economy.
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The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.
The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.
According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.
"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.