Paul A. Volcker

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Paul A. Volcker

Paul Adolph Volcker (born 1927) is an American economist and politician. He was most famous for serving as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1979 to 1987, under the administration of President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He wielded vast power over U.S. economic policy in the midst of simultaneous inflation and stagnation, in which he pursued a policy of curtailing money supply.

Early life and career

Volcker was born in Cape May, New Jersey in 1927. He was educated in Princeton University, Harvard University and London School of Economics. Prior to his tenure as the head of Federal Reserve, he worked as an economist for Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1952 to 1957, and later for the Chase Manhattan Bank and the U.S. Department of Treasury. In 1975 Volcker began to lead the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, serving as its president until nominated to the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve Board by President Carter.

Heading the Federal Reserve Board

When he assumed the post, the U.S. dollar faced runaway inflation. He responded by restricting the money supply, in contrast to the past approach of controlling interest rates. Though his policies did stop inflation, the unemployment rate skyrocketed. He was widely criticized at that point. However, he was favored by President Reagan and his reputation was improved later. In 1987, he was replaced by Alan Greenspan.

Later career

After he finished his tenure in the Fed, he once chaired the National Commission on the Public Service, served as the North American Chairman of The Trilateral Commission, and led the James D. Wolfensohn banking firm.

In 1999 Volcker led an investigation of Swiss banks' handling Holocaust victims' accounts. From 2004 to 2005 he headed United Nations' investigation into the corruption Iraqi oil-for-food program. With former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, economist Milton Friedman, media personality Walter Cronkite and many other prominent figures, he was a signatory of a 1998 public letter to the UN Secretary Kofi Annan urging the UN to reconsider the global War on Drugs.

In 2008, in light of the economic crisis, president-elect Barack Obama appointed Volcker to be one of his key economic advisers. He was considered to be one of the possible contenders for Secretary of Treasury, until Obama chose Timothy Geithner.


Further reading

  • Treaster, Joseph B., Paul Volcker: The Making of a Financial Legend ISBN 0471428124
  • Volcker, Paul A., Changing Fortunes:: The World's Money and the Threat to American Leadership ISBN 0812922182