At least three times this month, leaders of the Federal Reserve Board have been asked in public forums to respond to criticism by President Donald Trump of the board’s actions on interest rates.
And, at least three times, the governors have responded: We’ll keep doing our jobs. (In the video, the governors voice their views in response to Trump’s remarks.)
In public forums – typically during a question-and-answer session following a speech – Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell, Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles, and Vice Chairman Richard Clarida have all commented on their response to the criticisms.
Since late September, following decisions by the governors (acting as members of the central bank’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC) Trump has voiced criticisms of their decisions to raise interest rates. At varying times, Trump has said the Federal Reserve has “gone loco” and “crazy,” arguing the rate setters of the FOMC are moving too quickly and thus are imperiling economic recovery and growth.
This week, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he viewed the Fed as the biggest risk to the economy (repeating a claim from the previous week he made on Fox Business Network: “My biggest threat is the Fed,” he said).
Thursday, Clarida became the third of the Fed governors to respond to questions about the impact of the president’s criticisms about the Fed.
“It will be in no way a consideration as far as I’m concerned,” Clarida said, referring to political pressure. “We have a very clear mandate which shows up every month in terms of inflation and unemployment. Our job is to sustain what is a very healthy and robust economy right now. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Early in the month, Powell told an audience in Washington (during the “Atlantic Festival,” sponsored by the Atlantic magazine and publishing group) that the Fed would not let “other things” distract it from doing its jobs (as mandated by Congress) to ensure price stability and full employment.
“My focus is on essentially controlling the controllable,” he told Judy Woodruff of PBS News (to rising snickers from the audience). “We control what we do.”
Last week, at the Economics Club of New York, Quarles made it clear that the job of the Fed is to “remain focused on the facts of the economy and to be independent from the administration.” He said that there has not been any effort to “undermine that independence.”
Asked if he longed for the days when presidents were less (if not completely) vocal about the Fed’s actions, Quarles merely said, “I think we can do our jobs, in any event.”