OTHER VOICES: Paul Volcker

He Whipped Inflation. Now He’s Punching Against Plutocracy.

Editors’ Note: Similar to politicos who refrain from comment upon climate science because they are not scientists, VF generally refrains from economic discussions due to the same identity crisis. Mr. Volcker, now 91, was chairman of the Federal Reserve in the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, the excerpts and comments below are from an interview in The New York Times [10/23/2018] and appear to be eminently comprehensible.

We’re in a hell of a mess in every direction.… Respect for government, respect for the Supreme Court, respect for the president, it’s all gone. Even respect for the Federal Reserve. And it’s really bad. At least the military still has all the respect. But I don’t know, how can you run a democracy when nobody believes in the leadership of the country?

[Volcker] conceived of a namesake rule that eliminated some of the most blatant risk-taking by Wall Street banks. The Volcker Rule, which was part of the Dodd-Frank regulatory legislation, is being chipped away by Republicans, which does not sit well with him.

There is no force on earth that can stand up effectively, year after year, against the thousands of individuals and hundreds of millions of dollars in the Washington swamp aimed at influencing the legislative and electoral process.

The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy. We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.

Schools like the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton . . . have failed to educate a new generation of civil servants.… [T]hey no longer teach governing but policy—a shift that allows them   to hold forums and discussions with generals and undersecretaries. Rich guys like to go ‘hobnobbing wholesale.’ They can argue war and peace and poverty and everything else. But when you go to a school of public policy, you’re not learning how to run the goddamn government. You’re learning how to debate political issues.

Volcker . . . acknowledged that Trump has cannily recognized the economic worries of blue-collar workers.  Mr. Trump seized upon some issues that the elite had ignored. I don’t think there’s any question about that, in kind of an erratic way, but there it is.







Categories: Issues, National

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