Paul Volcker, inflation-busting economist who served under six presidents, dies at 92

"Volcker was the man who made America a country that was regarded as not willing to take inflation anymore," one financial analyst said.
Key Speakers At The Bretton Woods Committee International Council Meeting
Paul Volcker, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks in Washington in 2014.Peter Marovich / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Lucy Bayly

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who guided economic policy for more than half a century and served under six presidents, died Sunday.

He was 92.

Perhaps best known in recent years for his work with President Barack Obama to pull the nation out of the depths of recession in 2008, Volcker was instrumental in setting speculative limits for financial institutions to cull risks that could bring down the financial system, a construct known as the Volcker Rule.

“Paul A. Volcker was a giant among American public servants," Thomas W. Ross, president of the Volcker Alliance, said in a statement issued Monday morning. "He was a man of great courage and integrity who committed most of his working life to the public good. Mr. Volcker was admired by people with differing political views for his courageous decision-making often under great pressure."

Volcker began his career in 1952, at the Fed, before moving to the Treasury Department under President John F. Kennedy. He became Fed chairman in 1979, under President Jimmy Carter, where he instituted reforms to address spiraling inflation.

Volcker's inflation-busting measures led to interest rates that topped 20 percent in the late 1970s, a manufacturing slowdown, soaring unemployment — and a reported attempt on his life. But his reforms paved the way for the economic expansion that governed the 1980s and the 1990s.

"Volcker was the man who made America a country that was regarded as not willing to take inflation anymore," CNBC's Jim Cramer said Monday. "Everyone respected Volcker."