David Stockman: Unshackling the Fed

Photo of David    StockmanThe stage was thus set for the final “run” on the dollar and for a spectacular default by the designated “reserve currency” provider under the gold exchange standard’s second outing. And as it happened, the American people saw fit to install in the White House in January 1969 just the man to crush what remained of gold-based money and the financial discipline that it enabled.

Richard M. Nixon, as we know, possessed numerous and notable flaws. Foremost was his capacity to carry a grudge against anyone whom he believed had caused him to lose an election, especially any economist, policy maker, or bystander who could be pinned with accountability for the mild 1960 recession that he believed responsible for his loss to John F. Kennedy.

Nixon’s vendetta on the matter of the 1960 election literally knew no limits. For example, he insisted that a midlevel career bureaucrat named Jack Goldstein, who headed the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), had deliberately spun the monthly unemployment report issued on the eve of the 1960 election so as to damage his campaign. Eight years later, Nixon informed the White House staff that job one was to determine if Goldstein was still at the BLS, and to get him fired if he was.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Nixon rolled into the Oval Office obsessed with replacing Chairman Martin and bringing the Fed to heel. To be sure, his only real interest in monetary policy consisted of ensuring that the one great threat to Republican success, a rising unemployment rate, did not happen in the vicinity of an election.


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