Investor Agenda

My Interview With White House Economic Adviser Paul Volcker

Editor's note, below is a transcript of Maria Bartiromo's interview with Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

MARIA BARTIROMO: Can you give us a sense of that meeting in Washington today. I know the president is focused on jobs. What came out of that meeting?

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker

WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER PAUL VOLCKER: The meeting wasn't public, so it can be broadly understood. He emphasized the importance of obviously getting sustainability of the economic recovery, which we hope and believe started in the third quarter. But we've got to move to an economy that can produce more jobs. I think that means to be sustained over a period of time, he emphasized strongly this morning, we need to improve our export ability and capacity. That means more manufacturing. There was discussion of the importance of infrastructure. And there was considerable discussion of how can we take advantage of, so to speak, of the need for a green economy, where we do a lot of the innovation. But can we build upon the innovation that's a strength of the united states into actual production. and there was considerable talk about retrofitting buildings, save a lot of energy, at the same time give some jobs.

BARTIROMO: This is a really interesting point. Everyone's looking at the economy trying to figure out where the jobs come from next. Let me ask you, going into 2010, with cap and trade on the table and health care spending and most people expecting higher interest rates, do you think policies need to be changed in order to incentivize companies to actually create these jobs?

VOLCKER: I think in those three areas I talked about, particularly in the area of retrofitting, I mention that because that's an area you might generate quite a few jobs among the people that are not now employed. It doesn't take new technology. It doesn't take anything new and innovative, it takes the energy to get done more rapidly. what's already being done on a small scale can be done more rapidly on a big scale.

BARTIROMO: What is your sense of where we are right now? We had the GDP report out on Friday showing 3.5% growth. Was that largely government spending, or do you think this is sustainable? How do you see things right now?

VOLCKER: I think the stimulus program contributed to it. it was not largely government spending in a technical sense. We had the inventory picture changed because inventories have been reduced rapidly in the earlier quarters and not being reduced now. Certainly not at the same speed. housing is at the bottom. It showed a little recovery. so you have a variety of forces, recovery and investment. Things that were down. But we're still very near the bottom.

BARTIROMO: Exactly. Today we had more evidence of that with CIT group declaring bankruptcy. do you think that will have an impact given that it's such an important lender to the retail sector?

VOLCKER: I am not an expert on CIT I think they tried very hard to make this as smooth as you can possibly make it, and CIT will remain in business and continue their important function.

BARTIROMO: I was reading about your comments recently as far as commercial banks versus investment banks. Do you think we should be treating the banks as utilities, pure lenders and not in the business of investment banking?

VOLCKER: Pure lenders is an exaggeration of what I'm saying. I think the banks are the core of the financial system and they should pay attention to their knitting, which is taking deposits, making loans, moving money around, helping people invest their money, do some underwriting. They've got plenty of things to keep them busy.

BARTIROMO: Would you like to see a separation of some of the riskier?

VOLCKER: I would like to see speculative capital markets stuff done in the capital markets and the banks do their business.

BARTIROMO: Tell me how you would like to see financial reform.

VOLCKER: I need to make a speech, and then I'll tell you.

Volcker on the Economy

BARTIROMO: As far as financial reform, sir, give me your sense of what it would look like.

VOLCKER: There are a lot of elements of financial reform. the administration has recommended a program most of which I agree with was very important to have an overall overseer as proposed. We need some resolution authority of non-banks in particular. As they proposed a lot of things to do with derivatives and credit default swaps. What do we do about credit rating agencies. There's a big area that's going to take a long time. And I need to go make a speech.

BARTIROMO: Let me just ask you this cause you know a lot of people say thank god Volcker is where he is right now advising the president you saved the economy once before we want you to save it again.

VOLCKER: Maria, I think that -- thank God I'm sitting here with a purple-dressed --

BARTIROMO: Do you feel you're being listened to, Sir? Are you being heard in the administration?

VOLCKER: I've got a loud voice. There you are. Like I said, the decision in the end is not mine. I give them the best advice I can give them.

BARTIROMO: What advice are you giving them right now?

VOLCKER: That's a long story. I need to go make a speech. No, I have good relationships with them. there's no problem between us.

BARTIROMO: Do you feel that we should be seeing an exit strategy articulated in terms of government's ownership of business, in terms of the fed programs out there?

VOLCKER: Look, they are thinking hard, I'm sure, about exit strategies. It's not an impossible problem. It will be a difficult problem. A lot depends on how the economy recovers. we've got to get some recovery going.

BARTIROMO: Can you talk to us about the deficit. Are you worried, should this be a near term priority?

VOLCKER: Everybody ought to be worried about the deficit. It's a big deficit. But the time will come to deal with it.


VOLCKER: It all depends upon the economy. The time has come for me to give a speech.

BARTIROMO: Mr. Volcker, you've got to go. We appreciate you sitting down with us today. 



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