The Fed, Policy, and Political Interference

The Wall Street Journal, in a piece about the relationship between Federal Reserve President Jerome Powell and President Donald Trump, had a question:

Who should shoulder the blame for a slowing US economy: President Trump? Or Fed chief Jerome Powell?

The question presents a false choice. Neither is to blame because there is no “blame” to be had. Economic cycles (“cycle” is a loose term in economics; it implies a temporal regularity that doesn’t exist) come and go on market forces, especially in a reasonably free market economy.

The Fed, though, should stop chasing the market and simply set its rates at levels consistent with a 2% inflation rate, the Fed’s stated target rate; then it should sit quietly.

As to the Fed’s political independence, that depends on how timid its President and BoG are. Such interference is very difficult to achieve: firing can only be done for cause, which is a high bar. Impeachment and conviction take both houses of Congress and a supermajority in one.

Of course, Fed moves can be countered or potentiated through Congress’ or a President’s fiscal moves, but those don’t politically interfere within the meaning of this article.

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