Tags: Richard Fisher | Federal Reserve | inflation | stimulus

Meet Richard Fisher, the One Fed Official Who Was Never Boring

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 01:44 PM

Central bankers strive to be predictable, reverent, understated — boring and proud of it. Richard Fisher, the soon-to-be-retiring chief of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has been anything but dull.

They say everything in Texas is bigger, and Fisher's rhetorical gunslinging fits the maxim. The Mexico-raised, Spanish-speaking son of an Australian father and South African mother proved himself again as the central bank's most colorful orator with a speech in New York today with the understated title, "Suggestions After a Decade at the Fed."

It was classic Fisher. He cited Mae West ("I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it") in lampooning Senator Rand Paul's "Audit the Fed" bill as an unwarranted politicization of the central bank. He cited Pope Francis in warning of the risk of "monetary Alzheimer’s," the idea the Fed could fall asleep as a tight labor market pushes prices higher. He ended by comparing the U.S. economy's potential to the Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred Secretariat.


As an interest-rate setter, Fisher has been an uber-hawk, the kind of policy maker who worries about inflation and asset-price bubbles even when neither is evident. That concern guided his consistent calls — and dissents at the Federal Open Market Committee — for a withdrawal of Fed stimulus as soon as possible.

Not that Fisher, 65, has always been right. The inflation boogeyman hasn't appeared; price gains have stayed under the Fed's 2 percent target for 32 months. And his figures of speech, though colorful, have occasionally proven less than razor-sharp. He began his Fed career in 2005 with the baseball analogy that the central bank was in the "eighth inning" of rate increases, which turned out to be wrong unless you viewed baseball as a game that goes beyond nine innings.

His adult beverage analogies have been smoother. In January 2014, he wondered whether investors indulging on Fed stimulus had donned "beer goggles," frat-house slang for that stage of intoxication when good judgment is impaired. He told Bloomberg's Kathleen Hays in early 2013 why the Fed had no choice but to slowly withdraw its asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing. "I wouldn't go from Wild Turkey to cold turkey." It was a line so catchy he repeated it throughout the year.

Fisher is leaving the Dallas Fed bank on March 19, and the self-styled-Texan-even-though-he-was-born-in-California hasn't outlined his next step. He'll have more time to watch the movies he likes to quote, maybe even some by an actor named Miles Fisher, his son, who does a funny impersonation of Tom Cruise. Given his literary flair, he could take a page from Ben S. Bernanke and Alan Greenspan and write his memoirs.

He could always fall back on ranching. In December 2012, he told a Lone Star State audience he had a 2,200-pound bull for his East Texas herd of longhorns, apparently named for Wall Street banks the Fed had to rescue: "Too Big to Fail." It was another metaphor he couldn't resist.

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Central bankers strive to be predictable, reverent, understated — boring and proud of it. Richard Fisher, the soon-to-be-retiring chief of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, has been anything but dull.
Richard Fisher, Federal Reserve, inflation, stimulus
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 01:44 PM
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