The ‘best’ Fed jokes from the worst of the financial crisis

Image: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
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The Federal Reserve isn’t just revealing the thinking behind its policy decisions by releasing meeting transcripts from 2008. It’s also letting the rest of the world in on the fact that—even as during the worst of the financial crisis—financial policymakers still enjoy a good yuck. Here’s some of the best, or worst, depending on your point of view.

Janet Yellen

-Today, the Chair of the Fed; then, she was the president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve.

“In the run-up to Halloween, we have had a witch’s brew of news. Sorry. [Laughter]”

— October 2008

“My contacts report that cutbacks in spending are widespread, especially for discretionary items. For example, East Bay plastic surgeons and dentists note that patients are deferring elective procedures. [Laughter] Reservations are no longer necessary at many high-end restaurants. And the Silicon Valley Country Club, with a $250,000 entrance fee and seven-to-eight-year waiting list, has seen the number of would-be new members shrink to a mere thirteen. [Laughter]”

— September 2008

Ben Bernanke

-Then chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“Three is a lucky number in China. Don [Kohn, then Fed vice chair] was going to tell you that 3 cubed is 27. [Laughter].”

— September 2008

David Stockton

-Then head of the Federal Reserve Board’s division of research and statistics.

“I must say I’m not feeling very well about it at the present, but I’m not sure whether that reflects rational economic analysis or the fact that I’ve had too many meals out of the vending machines downstairs in the last few days. [Laughter]”

— September 2008

“Although most of the value of what’s in your morning cereal bowl is advertising, packaging, and transportation, some corn and wheat are in there also, [laughter] and those prices have been rising rapidly.”

— April 2008

“It seems as though Okun’s law gets obeyed about as frequently as the 55 mile an hour speed limit on I-95. [Laughter]”

— October 2008

Tim Geithner

-President of the New York Federal Reserve.

“I sat next to Paul Volcker when he gave his speech in New York the other day, and he said that the world today feels as it did in the 1970s. I was alive in the 1970s, but only just. [Laughter] But I think it is better than that.”

— April 2008

Kevin Warsh

-Then, a Federal Reserve governor.

“The first sentence of the Greenbook said that ‘recent economic and financial news has been dismal’; and the last sentence on page 1 of the Bluebook said that ‘markets generally remain extremely illiquid and volatile.’ I can’t do better than that, but I can certainly do worse; so let me give that a try. [Laughter].”

“Let me begin by agreeing with Don Kohn on two things. This is the toughest economic period I can remember in his lifetime [Laughter].”

— October 2008

Charles Prosser

-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

“I guess the best thing I can say about the Third District right now is ‘Go Phillies!’ [Laughter]”

— October 2008

Jeffrey Lacker

-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

“I applaud President Bullard for his breaking new ground by providing a figure from the Journal of Economic Theory. [Laughter]”

— October 2008