Months passed. Finally, a big package was delivered to the two media outlets—513 pages of verbatim discussions by the Federal Open Market Committee, the decision makers who set monetary policy and authorize the big-ticket loans and guarantees for troubled financial institutions. Imagine the high drama those pages would reveal.
“Good morning, everybody,” Chairman Ben Bernanke announced. The page went blank, actually gray. The only words that appeared were the names of the numerous participants, followed by page after page of empty gray space. At the bottom each page it said in bold type “Authorized for Public Release.” Then Bernanke spoke again. “So we’ve had a motion without objection. Okay, then the swap lines are approved. Let’s turn now to the economic situation.” Etc., etc. More empty gray pages—roughly 500 of them.
Do you get the Fed’s joke? This is how the central bank informs the public in a timely manner—by erasing all “substantive discussions and deliberations among the committee participants during these critical years.” It acts like the CIA for money. It invokes fine-print exceptions with no effort to justify the suppression. If you want to know more, wait around five years. By then the information should be quite harmless for the policy makers.