Intense criticism of the Fed’s role in the financial rescue program and the decision to triple its balance sheet, including monetizing a portion of the Treasury’s debt, has forced the central bank to issue an unusual defense of its actions (http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/press/monetary/20090323b.htm).
It attempts to placate critics by acknowledging the real risk of inflation, and marks the Fed’s first attempt to set out an “exit strategy” for ending quantitative easing and other credit programs once the crisis is safely passed.
The joint statement issued with the U.S. Treasury reflects “the common views of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve on the appropriate roles of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury during the current financial crisis and in future.”
The last time the Fed and Treasury were forced to reach such an agreed statement defining their respective responsibilities was in 1951. Over the previous 15 years, monetary and fiscal policies had largely become fused as a result of the Great Depression (with interest rates kept artificially low to support recovery, then abandoned as a tool of monetary management in favor of reserve requirements) and World War Two (with rates repressed to help finance the government’s massive borrowing program).