Date published: May 7, 2012
Journal code: NEAM
Five hundred pages of redactions. Blank pages. That's what the public gets to see in the transcripts of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FROMC) meetings for 2007-2010. The longawaited transcripts, released March 7, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show, undoubtedly hold some very important information about the Fed's activities and decisions during and since the financial crisis, including to whom it has given trillions of taxpayer dollars in "loans" and bailouts - and on what terms.
Not all of the recently released transcript pages are completely blank; some of the pages of particular FROMC meetings list the names of attendees and include brief opening and closing remarks by Chairman Ben Bernanke, as well as bantering and joking by Bernanke and other attendees. Although the meager transcripts provide virtually none of the substantive information Fed watchers were hoping to find, the newly released pages do include the word "Laughter," in brackets, 79 times. Undoubtedly, there were many more laugh lines in the redacted material. However, for the millions of Americans who have lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs, or their life savings - or who face imminent loss of the same - it's no laughing matter.
In an April 16 commentary entitled "Fed Release Is Absurdly Redacted," John Carney, senior editor of CNBCs NetNet, notes that Bernanke and company have censored all the relevant information about the most critical events in our recent economic history. "Take the entry from March 10, 2008," Carney comments. "It begins with these words. 'CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Good evening, everybody. I am sorry, once again, to have to call you together on short notice. We live in a very special time.' That sounds like the start to a very interesting meeting. Unfortunately, the remainder of that page is redacted."
Why was that meeting important? Because of the imminent collapse of the Bear Sterns brokerage, one of the critical precipitating events of the financial crisis. "The following day," notes Carney, "the Fed announced the creation of the Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF), one of the first of many bailout facilities the Fed would launch to prop up the financial system."
The speeches and testimony of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and other Federal Reserve officers are replete with pious expressions of the Fed's alleged commitment to openness and transparency. Clearly, that commitment is as empty as the latest batch of released transcripts.