The FOMC take this very seriously:
On the dollar, Mr. Volcker’s blunt talk of crisis is a welcome tonic to the devaluationist consensus that now dominates Washington. The world has been staging a run on the greenback, with damaging results if it continues. Mr. Volcker noted that when “concerns about recession are rife,” the central bank will be tempted to “subordinate the fundamental need to maintain a reliable currency” to the impulse to shore up a flagging economy. The danger is that you lose both battles, as the U.S. did in the 1970s, and wind up with stagflation.
The present climate, Mr. Volcker told his audience, reminded him of nothing so much as the early 1970s. Then as now, certain commodity prices were rising fast ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ he cited oil and soybeans as two examples. Then as now too, these were explained away as speculative price run-ups and not as a harbinger of a broader inflationary trend.
We all know how that ended, and Mr. Volcker knows better than anyone. He was the one who, at the end of that decade, had to step in and raise interest rates to punitive levels to break the back of that bout of inflation. With commodity prices spiking again ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ soybeans are $12 a bushel today compared to $7 a year ago ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Mr. Volcker is warning the Fed not to let inflationary expectations become embedded once again.