Tags: federal reserve | congress | audit | powell

Powell: Audit Bill Threatens Fed Independence

Monday, 09 February 2015 07:54 PM


Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell stepped up the central bank’s push against what he termed congressional efforts to extend political influence over monetary policy, calling them “misguided” and “in violent conflict with the facts.”

Existing law exempts Fed monetary policy from Government Accountability Office audits because that would include “substantial risk of political interference,” Powell said on Monday in a speech in Washington. A bill by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky would eliminate the exemption.

Powell’s speech marked an escalation in the Fed’s public campaign to thwart congressional pressure, which Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser called “scary” in separate remarks on Monday. Dallas Fed chief Richard Fisher argued that the central bank was already “audited out the Wazoo.”

The unusually sharp remarks suggest policy makers see an increasing threat from Republicans, who now control both the Senate and House of Representatives. President Barack Obama could veto any anti-Fed legislation that reached his desk, implying little chance such proposals would become law unless Republicans recapture the White House in 2016.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who told reporters in December she’ll speak out “forcefully” against monetary-policy audits, delivers her semi-annual testimony to Congress on Feb. 24-25.

Powell also said the Fed shouldn’t be required by law to follow a rule in setting monetary policy and that Congress shouldn’t curb its powers to provide emergency loans during a financial crisis.

Troubling Proposals

“I am concerned about several troubling proposals that would subject monetary policy to undue political pressure and place new limits on the Fed’s ability to respond to future crises,” Powell said. “The Fed has been transparent, accountable, and subject to extensive oversight, especially during and since the crisis. We have also taken appropriate steps since the crisis to further enhance that transparency.”

History in the U.S. and other advanced economies shows that monetary policy is most successful when it’s “rendered independent of influence by elected officials,” Powell said.

Such independence is crucial because politicians often push for “easier policies that serve short-term political interests, at the expense of higher inflation and damage to the long-term health and stability of the economy,” he said.

Powell also said economic data shows that the benefits of Fed policy since the crisis “have been substantial, and that the risks have not materialized,” with inflation continuing to run well below the Federal Open Market Committee’s 2 percent objective. “Indeed, some argue today that low inflation should cause the committee to hold off from raising interest rates,” Powell said.

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Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell stepped up the central bank's push against what he termed congressional efforts to extend political influence over monetary policy, calling them "misguided" and "in violent conflict with the facts."
federal reserve, congress, audit, powell
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2015-54-09
Monday, 09 February 2015 07:54 PM
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