Federal Reserve

Months before he died, Volcker ripped into Trump and 'nihilistic forces' undermining confidence in the US

Key Points
  • Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, in an essay written in September, sharply criticized President Donald Trump and the "nihilistic forces" seeking to undermine U.S. institutions.
  • He also called out Trump for his relentless criticism of Fed officials and their policy moves.
  • Volcker, who died Sunday, is credited with vanquishing inflation in the late 1970s and early '80s.
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Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker dies at age 92

Three months before he died, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker issued a scathing critique against President Donald Trump and the "movement to undermine Americans' faith in our government and its policies and institutions."

In an afterword to a paperback release of his autobiography, the legendary former central bank chief called out the president for his attacks on the Fed and said there is a general movement to undermine confidence in essential U.S. institutions.

"Nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water, and climate," Volcker wrote at the end of "Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government." "And they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy: voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, the free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science, and the concept of truth itself."

Volcker died Sunday at age 92. An excerpt of the afterword was published Wednesday in the Financial Times.

He guided the Fed from 1979-87 and led the way to vanquishing the runaway inflation of the period. Later, he formulated the Volcker rule banking reform that restricted risk-taking on Wall Street.

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U.S. in a 'hell of a mess in every direction': Volcker

In the essay he wrote in September, Volcker addressed Trump's repeated criticism of the Fed. The president has demanded the central bank lower rates and has called officials there "boneheads" and said Chairman Jerome Powell was "clueless."

"Not since just after the second world war have we seen a president so openly seek to dictate policy to the Fed," Volcker wrote. "That is a matter of great concern, given that the central bank is one of our key governmental institutions, carefully designed to be free of purely partisan attacks."

Volcker added that confidence in the U.S. is "under siege."

"Seventy-five years ago, Americans rose to the challenge of vanquishing tyranny overseas. We joined with our allies, keenly recognizing the need to defend and sustain our hard-won democratic freedoms," he said. "Today's generation faces a different, but equally existential, test. How we respond will determine the future of our own democracy and, ultimately, of the planet itself."

The concerns are similar to those he expressed a year ago in an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times and CNBC, during which he said the U.S. was in "a hell of a mess" because "nobody believes in the leadership of the country."

CNBC has reached out to the White House for comment.

WATCH: Volcker participates in discussion of whether Fed is too politicized

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The Fed too politicized?