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D. Rolling Kearney

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REPORTER (voice-over): In public, Greenspan was inscrutable [Ed. note: i.e. unfathomable] whenever Congress asked about interest rates. He resorted to an indecipherable, delphic [Ed. note: i.e. arcane-sounding] dialect, known as Fed-speak.

GREENSPAN: I would engage in some form of syntax destruction, which sounded as though I were answering the question, but in fact [I] had not.

REPORTER (voice-over): We showed him a tape of him at a hearing.

GREENSPAN (on tape): Modest preemptive actions can obviate the need of more drastic actions at a later date. And that could destabilize the economy.

GREENSPAN: [jokingly] Very profound.

REPORTER: Very profound? Impenetrably profound. And so you worked on these [responses], right?

GREENSPAN: Oh, of course!

REPORTER: What would often happen is, you’d get two newspapers with opposing headlines coming out of the same hearing.

GREENSPAN: I succeeded!

In another interview with CNBC, which aired the following day on September 17th (also included in the supporting material 22), Greenspan was remarkably candid in defining this diversion tactic (emphasis added):

REPORTER: Not only are you dealing with crises, but then you’ve got to convey what’s going on to people. That means Congress, the President, the media, the public. So, you come up with “Green-speak."

GREENSPAN: [nods] Otherwise known as Fed-speak.

REPORTER: What is it?

GREENSPAN: It’s a language of purposeful obfuscation to avoid certain questions coming up which you know you can’t answer, and saying “I will not answer" or, basically, “no comment" as the answer… Say a congressman asks you a question, and you don’t want to say “No comment" or “I won’t answer" – something like that – I [would then] proceed with four or five sentences which get increasingly obscure. The congressman thinks I answered the question [and] goes on to the next one.

Footnotes

22

Greenspan Describes Greenspeak Fedspeak CNBC 09-17-2007

Download the Video: MP4 (22.5 MB)