President Trump plans to nominate Christopher Waller, the executive vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Judy Shelton, the U.S. executive director of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, to join the Federal Reserve’s board.
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Trump made the announcement in a series of back-to-back tweets on Tuesday evening.
The news comes less than three months after his two previous nominations to the Fed’s board, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and conservative economist Stephen Moore, came under intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill from both sides of the political aisle. Moore and Cain both ultimately withdrew their candidacies.
The president recently doubled down on his criticism of the Fed -- and its chairman Jerome Powell -- pressing policymakers to lower the benchmark federal funds rate. He’s repeatedly claimed the stock market would be “10,000 points higher” if interest rates hadn’t been raised during the Fed’s December meeting (the fourth time they were hiked in 2018).
At the latest Federal Open Market Committee, policymakers heavily hinted at the possibility of a rate cut at the end of July, depending on inflation and uncertainties about the U.S.-China trade war.
Traders are currently pricing in a 100 percent chance of a rate cut, despite thawing relations between Washington and Beijing after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreeing to resume trade negotiations at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan this weekend.
Shelton served as an economic adviser on Trump’s transition team, and in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, she agreed with the president: “The answer is yes” on whether the Fed should lower interest rates.
“The Fed’s practice of paying banks to keep money parked at the Fed in deposit accounts instead of going into the economy is unhealthy and distorting; the rate should come down quickly as the practice is phased out,” she said during the June interview.
Likewise, she spoke highly of the “pro-growth economic agenda that has been launched under the Trump administration” and argues that some policies implemented by the White House —“reducing the regulatory burden, cutting taxes and fighting for genuine trade reform”—need to be “sustained and further empowered through substantive international monetary reform,” according to the Journal.
Waller’s stance on lowering interest rates is slightly murkier -- but his boss at the St. Louis Fed, Chairman James Bullard, was the one dissenting voice on the 10-person FOMC committee at the latest meeting, voting to lower rates.
“Lowering the target range for the federal funds rate at this time would provide insurance against further declines in expected inflation and a slowing economy subject to elevated downside risks,” Bullard said in a note explaining his decision.
If Trump is looking for a political ally in Waller though, he may be out of luck. Waller, in 2011, laid out the need for keeping the central bank independent from other branches of government.
“A central bank’s independence, however, is the key tool to ensure a government will not misuse monetary policy for short-term political reasons,” he wrote in 2011.