The legendary Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker died on Tuesday at the age of 92, but he had a final warning for an American public wrestling with a declining trust in government and each other.
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The Financial Times published the afterword in Volcker’s upcoming autobiography which the newspaper said was written in September, three months before his death.
In it, Volcker condemned President Trump’s efforts – without naming him – to pressure the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates in an attempt to juice US economic growth, already undergoing its longest sustained expansion.
“Not since just after the second world war have we seen a president so openly seek to dictate policy to the Fed. That is a matter of great concern, given that the central bank is one of our key governmental institutions, carefully designed to be free of purely partisan attacks,” the former Fed chairman wrote.
Volcker said he trusted the members of the Fed will fend off any attempts to interfere in its monetary policy decisionmaking so it may act “free of partisan political purposes.”
Trump has repeatedly assailed Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, for not cutting rates. Back in August, Trump called Powell an “enemy” of the United States comparable to China, the Washington Post reported.
Related opinion video: Paul Volcker was the Fed chairman who broke inflation (provided by The Wall Street Journal)
The former Fed chair painted a very bleak portrait of the nation’s political environment, noting “forces” are rolling back environmental and other protections considered emblematic of American democracy.
“Increasingly, by design or not, there appears to be a movement to undermine Americans’ faith in our government and its policies and institutions,” Volcker wrote. “We’ve moved well beyond former president Ronald Reagan’s credo that ‘government is the problem,’ with its aim of reversing decades of federal expansion.”
He went on: “Today we see something very different and far more sinister. Nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water, and climate. And they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy: voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, the free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science, and the concept of truth itself.”
Volcker was best-known for waging a campaign to subdue inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Fed chairman. He later sought to keep regulations in place to oversee the financial industry and became an advocate for financial reform.
The former Fed leader later chaired Obama’s Council of Economic Advisory Board after the banking system teetered on the edge of total collapse in 2008.