I was a teenage Gramlich

By JIM NEWELL  |  April 4, 2012

Josh played our sole district bank president, Al Broaddus of Richmond. Josh was an ambitious young man who had mysteriously been racking up bank internships at places like Legg Mason during his high-school summers, while I was cleaning crap off movie-theater floors. He had an explicit plan to become president of the United States by some point in his late 30s or early 40s, which largely went like this: get into Wharton, make a lot of money in finance, quit, and work up the political ladder to the Oval Office. But in his role as Broaddus, Josh's duty for our team was simply to cover the "local stuff" while the rest of us prattled on about national macroeconomics. His speaking parts would usually start with, "In my district, for example . . ." or, "According to the most recent Beige Book projections . . ." Josh was solid.

Danelle played Roger Ferguson, then the vice-chair of the Federal Reserve, because, well . . . someone should play the vice-chair, right? Danelle had been an alternate for most of the time leading up to the competition and had to play catch-up after the original teammate, Reenie, was hospitalized following a terrible car accident during that winter's heavy snowfalls.

And the last member was me, playing Ed Gramlich, mostly because Tim told me I should play him.

We made our way up the learning curve by reading contemporary Fed speeches, Greg Ip's Wall Street Journal articles, a few well-maintained economic data Web sites, and anything else that Maestro didn't cover.

Our team spent the winter preparing, and by early spring, we'd advanced through two regional rounds in Baltimore and the district finals in Richmond.

We were ungodly nervous on the day of the final four. In the first round of the national finals, which we'd barely escaped the day before, the judges made a quick study of Danelle's alternate selection and relative lack of preparation. They chose to target this vulnerability, and Danelle had to sit silently when pressed and wait for Peter to chime in on her behalf. To be fair, this was more like how the FOMC operated in real life: Greenspan would mute all the other board members and do whatever he wanted.

On top of that, Peter and I had been struggling for weeks with the problem of giggling — giggling! — in the middle of our presentation whenever we made eye contact. This giddy attack of the nerves hadn't disappeared even by the time we were preparing in the Federal Reserve cafeteria, leading Josh at one point to grab Peter by the lapels, hold him against a wall, and say, "YOU BETTER NOT RUIN THIS." In fairness, we could appreciate his alarm — this was a small but significant step along his path to the US presidency. No one giggled when George W. Bush made the case for extended tax cuts for the wealthy, after all — and it would certainly strain all sorts of credulity to have our judges imagine our respective real-life models, Alan Greenspan and Ed Gramlich, adjourning Open Market Committee meetings amid uncontrollable bursts of hysterical laughter.

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