August 25, 2019

Trump Renews Attacks on Fed, Putting Central Bank in a Bind

The president has been particularly critical of the Fed’s policies in the context of his trade war. Mr. Trump has said that China devalues its currency, making its goods cheaper to buy and putting the United States at a disadvantage.

“They devalue their currency,” Mr. Trump said. “They have for years. It’s put them at a tremendous competitive advantage and we don’t have that advantage because we have a Fed that doesn’t lower interest rates. We should be entitled to have a fair playing field, but even without a fair playing field — because our Fed is very, very disruptive to us — even without a fair playing field we are winning.”

Before adopting its current cautious stance, the Fed had raised rates nine times since late 2015, with four of those coming after Mr. Trump nominated Mr. Powell to lead the central bank. It has also been shrinking its large balance sheet of government-backed bonds — which it amassed in the wake of the financial crisis to help prop up the economy — though it is in the process of slowing and stopping the drawdown.

Mr. Trump seemed to blame Fed policy partly on personnel. Mr. Trump has nominated four of the Fed’s five board members in Washington, but boards at the 12 regional central banks select their leaders. In total, 13 of the 17 people sitting around the policy-setting table were not selected by the White House.

He said in the interview that the Fed had not listened to him and that “they’re not my people.” All four of the Fed governors he selected voted in favor of rate increases last year, including Mr. Powell, Richard Clarida, Randal Quarles and Michelle Bowman.

The Fed operates independently of the White House by design, so that its officials are free to make decisions that could cause short-term pain but are better for the nation’s long-term economic health.

The president’s regular attacks on the central bank break with a decades-old tradition of respecting that independence.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/business/economy/trump-attacks-fed-interest-rates.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

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