The former head of the Dallas Federal Reserve blasted President Trump’s plan to add two political allies to the U.S. central bank’s chief decision-making board, predicting neither will get Senate approval.
Richard Fisher told CNBC that the president’s attempt to pack a Fed board and strip it of its independence is likely to get bottled up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump has said he plans to nominate Stephen Moore and Herman Cain to fill two empty seats on the seven-member Fed Board of Governors.
“Those guys are not going to get confirmed. I do think that is going to be a very long shot,” Fisher said in the CNBC interview. “I think the Senate will ferret this out and delay the nominations.”
The outspoken Fisher is one of the few former senior Fed officials to openly criticize the potential nominations of Moore and Cain. Sen. Mitt Romney, the former investment adviser and Republican presidential nominee in 2012, has also been sharply critical. Wall Street pros are also skeptical.
Most Republicans have been mum so far.
Trump has repeatedly bashed the Fed and Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he appointed last year, for raising interest rates in 2018. He’s accused the Fed of damaging the economy and has urged the central to cut interest rates and use so-called quantitative easing to make money even cheaper.
Ironically, many Republicans harshly criticized the use of “QE” by the Fed during the Obama presidency, including Trump himself.
Moore is a well-known supporter of conservative economic policies who’s long advised Republican candidates. He’s also worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank and the right-leaning Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The 73-year-old Cain, an African-American, is a former CEO who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He was chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve in the 1990s, but he has mostly been involved in politics and media for the past 20 years.
“It’s pretty clear [Trump] is going to try his utmost to politicize the Fed,” Fisher said. “He is building a case of what he wants the Fed to look like long term.”
Fisher served as Dallas Fed president from 2005 to 2015 and developed a reputation as a “hawk” who worried more about inflation and tended to favor higher interest rates. He has lots of contacts in the business and political worlds stemming from his long career in financial markets and government.
He said he would be “personally disappointed” if Moore got on the board. He also opposed Cain, but was less critical.
“Neither of them has the right stuff to be a Fed board governor,” Fisher said. “Moore I don’t pay any attention to. He is a politician, a political economist. Not a very well-trained economist, by the way.”
The big danger, Fisher warned, is that the Fed becomes a tool of whichever party holds power in Washington. Republicans and Democrats could try to add their own supporters to the board, giving them tight control over what is now a very independent-operating Fed.
“It represents a threat to the independence of the most important central bank in the world,” Fisher said. “I think the markets
would go into a frenzy and our allies, other central banks, would go into a frenzy if indeed he succeeds with Moore and with Cain.”