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Texas Monthly: Money Makes the World Go Round

Author: Erica Grieder
December 6, 2013

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"And as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Richard Fisher helps make the money go round. Meet the Fed's most unlikely central banker."

The first thing to know about the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is that you should get there a little early. Security is tight—the entrance to the parking lot alone employs a series of three gates, plus guards. To enter the building you have to get a visitor's badge, which allows you and your bag to go through the metal detectors into the lobby, where you can exchange your first badge for another one. This badge allows you to proceed beyond the lobby, although you're not exactly free to roam. The reason for all the security is that in the basement of the Dallas Fed there's a vault the size of a five-story building, and sitting in that vault, under heavy protection, is the most staggering concentration of physical wealth in Texas: trolleys full of shrink-wrapped bundles of brand-new bills, piles and piles of old bills, stacks as far as the eye can see. The exact amount fluctuates, but on any given day, there are billions of dollars down there. And all of it's in cash.

Take the elevator in the other direction and you'll find floor after floor of the same types of workers you'd find at a commercial bank: managers and analysts and researchers and lawyers. But these men and women (more of the latter than you might expect) are part of the Federal Reserve System, so they have a public role: they produce research about the region, serve as our friendly local central bankers, and, as a group and along with the Fed's board of governors in Washington, help make decisions about how much money the richest nation in the history of the world should have on hand.

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