When people laugh at meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body that sets monetary policy for the Federal Reserve system, the transcript states: “[Laughter].” As a result, it’s easy to quantify how much funny business is going on at the Fed.
But not every year is created equal. 2008 was a terrible year for Fed humor, which isn’t surprising—the global financial crisis was no laughing matter. (Incidentally, we suspect that our Brookings colleague Bernanke is responsible for the 2006 boom—that’s when he became Chairman.)
Of course, these data are deeply suspect, because laughter is not binary—it’s on a continuum, and sometimes people just snicker.
After an exhaustive analysis, we determined that FOMC members laugh less when unemployment is high. The r-squared isn’t much to look at, but the data points produce a nice (and ultimately persuasive, we’re sure) line of best fit.
Our findings suggest that, with unemployment probing 10-year lows, the recent FOMC meeting must have been a hoot.
Sentiment inside the Beltway has turned sharply against China. There are many issues where the two parties sound more or less the same. Trump and others in the administration seem heavily invested in a ‘get very tough with China’ stance. It’s possible that some Democrats might argue that a decoupling strategy borders on lunacy. But if Trump believes this will play well with his core constituencies as his reelection campaign moves into high gear, he will probably decide to stick with it, if the costs and the collateral damage seem manageable. But that’s a very big if, especially if the downsides of a protracted trade war for both American consumers and for American firms become increasingly apparent.