The Green Phone

Many years ago at the end of the Carter Administration, Paul Volker was appointed chairman of the board of governors of The Federal Reserve System, August 1979. A few years later I was married, and came to appreciate my wife’s thriftiness and ability to deal with financial figures quickly, almost effortlessly. This was a talent I sorely lacked. Around about the same time, my mother-in-law, who also worked effortlessly with finances, and found both a several thousand dollar and a $0.10 error in two different bank statements. Now, because of that, I built up a mythology around my mother-in-law, kind of like William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, but requiring less talent. I imagined she had the financial equivalent of the direct-connect phone connecting the White House and the Kremlin, only this was to discuss financial matters. I called it the Green Phone, which meant in a financial crisis, Mr. Volker could pick up the phone and get advice from the very same person who had found a $ 0.10 error in a banking statement. The dinner time stories including fixing the accounting of several German financial institutions, when my mother-in-law was touring Germany along the banks of the Rhine, to saving the U.S. from economic disaster. She was embarrassed by all this, and, since the mythology included Paul Volker, like Wagner’s Ring cycle, the mythology concluded after Alan Greenspan was appointed the next FED chairman, much to my mother-in-law’s relief.

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