Federal Reserve policy makers faced a dark economic outlook as 2009 began. They cut some of the tension at their Federal Open Market Committee meetings with their usual brand of central banking humor. The FOMC’s 11 meetings and phone calls in 2009 featured 303 moments of laughter–marked in the transcripts, released Wednesday, by a [Laughter] tag. We’ve collected some of the best and worst ones here.
Many of these were lame cracks to bring a bit of levity to an otherwise long and dreary gathering. If you read the transcripts for the jokes (Pro tip: Don’t do this) you’d be perplexed by many of the inside jokes about bureaucracy or the challenges of crafting the FOMC statement. So just remember this: They’re economists. You don’t pay them to be funny.
(Note: The transcripts run for thousands of pages, featuring serious discussions on a very long list of topics. Read our comprehensive coverage here on Real Time Economics to capture those discussions.)...MUCH MORE
The year must begin by electing a chairman of the FOMC, a post everyone knows will be filled by Fed chairman. Fed vice chairman Donald Kohn did the honors:
MR. KOHN. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure and an honor to recommend Ben Bernanke to be Chairman of this Committee. I am not sure what sins you committed in an earlier life, but I sure hope you had fun. [Laughter]
MR. HOENIG. It’s the first nomination I’ve heard like that. [Laughter]
Later, Fed staff funnyman David Stockton:
CHAIRMAN BERNANKE. … Let me turn now to the economic situation. Boy, I think it has been a while since we were three and a half hours into the meeting before we got to the staff forecast.
MR. STOCKTON. The GDP is a little smaller than it was at the start of the meeting.
Fed officials go around the table offering their assessments of the economy. Here is then-San Francisco Fed president Janet Yellen:
MS. YELLEN. … The residential housing sector has now shrunk so much that the only real assurance that it will ever stabilize seems to be the fact that construction spending cannot go negative. This is just about the only zero lower bound that is working on our side. [Laughter]
Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher also has a T-shirt reference to make, followed by several other jokes:
MR. FISHER. I was first going to say to Dave Stockton that our wives have an affinity for T-shirts. My wife, a smart Wellesley woman who spent most of her time at MIT, arrived at Oxford noting that the ratio of women to men was 1 to 11. She had a T-shirt for other women which she sold briskly, and it said, “Come to Oxford where the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” [Laughter]
… Mr. Chairman, I want to report on the microeconomic input I received from my corporate contacts, which numbered some 29 CEOs around the country whom I talked to before this meeting. Unfortunately, it confirms what Dave and Steve presented. In fact, one actually called me and said, “Do you want some good news?” And I said, “Please.” He said, “Call somebody else.” [Laughter]
… I couldn’t find any silver linings. There is, I suppose, a pewter lining, as I like to call it. And, Governor Tarullo, without any insult to your industry, one of the virtues is that the legal industry is also contracting [laughter]; 6,000 people were laid off from major law firms year to date....