For the second month in a row, the chairman of the nation’s central bank and the president of the United States had no apparent contact – interrupting what had been, at least, monthly contact between the two between February and May.
According to the calendar of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. (“Jay”) Powell for July – released last week by the Fed (which makes public Powell’s calendar a little more than 30 days after the month has concluded), Powell and President Donald Trump had no meetings or phone calls during July, as was the case in June. Prior to that, for four straight months starting in February Powell and the president talked – if briefly – each month.
Prior to a February dinner at the White House, the two had not spoken in about a year.
Trump has been a strong and recurring critic of the Fed’s actions on interest rates. The president has repeatedly urged the central bank to change policy course, particularly when the central bank’s rate-setting committee was raising rates. As during June, in July Trump was sharply critical of the Fed and Powell for not cutting interest rates more deeply.
In late July, however, the Fed’s interest-rate setting committee (the Federal Open Market Committee, FOMC) voted to cut rates 25 basis points (lowering the target range for the federal funds rate to 2% to 2.25%). The decision was not unanimous, however: two members of the FOMC voted against the rate cut.
That rate cut apparently wasn’t enough for the president. Last month, Trump called for more, sharp interest rate cuts, blasting Powell for a “horrendous lack of vision,” while reiterating his assertion that the U.S. economy is strong.
Despite no discussions with the president, Powell has been in typical conversations with top Trump Administration economic officials and advisers during July, the calendar shows: he dined with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin twice (breakfast and lunch) and talked to him once by phone, and lunched with Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council.