At a time when the appeal of and demands for a new “democratic” socialism seem to have caught the imagination of many among the young and are reflected in the promises of a good number of political candidates running for high office, there is one already-existing socialist institution in America with few opponents: the Federal Reserve System.
The fact is, central banking is a form of central planning. The Federal Reserve has a legal monopoly over the monetary system of the United States. It plans the quantity of money in circulation and its availability for lending purposes; and it sets a target for the annual rate of price inflation (currently around 2 percent), while also intentionally influencing interest rates, affecting investment spending, and supporting full employment. Almost all discussions and debates concerning the Federal Reserve revolve around how it should undertake its monetary central planning: which policy tools should be used, what target goals should be aimed for, and who should be in charge of directing America’s central bank.
Federal Reserve Independence in the Trump Era
A complementary issue that has received renewed attention concerns the question of how much “independence” the Federal Reserve and other central banks should have to determine and implement monetary and interest rate policy. This has recently come to the fore due to comments made by President Donald Trump concerning Federal Reserve interest rate policy and the individuals he has recently proposed for positions on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Several times over the last year, President Trump has expressed irritation and frustration with increases in market rates of interest under the Federal Reserve Board leadership of Jerome Powell, who Trump nominated for Fed chairman and who has held that position since February 2018.
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