Consistent with Munger's admonition, the Fed saw it necessary to expand our toolkit beyond the proverbial hammer of the policy rate in the last nine months. And as I discussed in remarks last month, the Fed's nontraditional policy response included the use of innovative liquidity tools to counter the market turmoil and improve the functioning of financial and credit markets.4
In my remarks today, I would like to discuss the use of the hammer--the setting of the federal funds rate--particularly in extraordinary times. Of course, determining the proper level of the federal funds rate is rarely simple, given typical imprecision on key economic variables and relationships. It is far more challenging still when the financial architecture is in the early stages of redesign, the economy is adjusting to the aftermath of a credit bubble (witnessed most acutely in the housing markets), and inflation risks are evident.
The Federal Reserve has employed the hammer with considerable force in the last nine months, lowering the federal funds rate by 3-1/4 percentage points, with wide-ranging implications for the economy. Of substantial import, we have filled the toolkit with other implements to provide liquidity and improve the provisioning of credit during the turmoil. But now, policymakers may be well served encouraging a new financial architecture to emerge, aided, in part, by the actions we have taken. Even if the economy were to weaken somewhat further, we should be inclined to resist expected, reflexive calls to trot out the hammer again.
Policy actions should reinforce the notion with stakeholders that further hammering needs to be done, but it needs to be accomplished by the financial institutions themselves in retooling their businesses and rebuilding the credit channel to help ensure a stronger, more durable economy.