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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Today is a truly historic day in Fed history — one that will have a transformative effect on U.S. monetary policy for the foreseeable future.

Driving the news: For decades, the main job of central banks has been to keep inflation down. The Fed has now effectively changed that policy, to instead prioritize maximum employment.

  • What they're saying: "Following periods when inflation has been running persistently below 2%, appropriate monetary policy will likely aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2% for some time."

Between the lines: Fed attitudes towards inflation have been evolving steadily in recent years, as it has stubbornly refused to tick up even during periods of full employment.

  • Today's announcement marks the end of the Fed worrying that employment can sometimes be too high.
  • Before today, the Fed was charged with assessing "deviations" from maximum employment — either to the upside or to the downside. Now, the Fed will only look at "shortfalls" from that level.
  • It's an admission that an economy can never have too much employment.

The big picture: The biggest change is that if the Fed expects inflation, it now no longer needs to raise interest rates. Instead, it can wait and see whether inflation actually arrives, and act only then.

Go deeper: The Fed's messaging around this move is exemplary. There's a simple and clear press release, a major speech from Jay Powell, a detailed policy statement, and then a collection of a dozen different papers all filling out the details of the thinking that went into the new policy.

The bottom line: This news represents a radical change in how the Fed thinks about its job. It will provide powerful ammunition should ECB president Christine Lagarde want to start trying to make similar changes.

Go deeper

The brewing stimulus battle between the Fed and Treasury

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A battle over stimulus escalated in Washington on Thursday night: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put emergency lending programs it set up alongside the Fed chair Jerome Powell on the chopping block.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic is worse than when these facilities were established in the spring — and economists worry about a resulting steep economic backslide.

Emergency Fed lending programs to expire under Mnuchin

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Caroline Brehman-Pool via Getty

The Treasury Department will not extend several Federal Reserve lending programs set to expire by year's end that were put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: There is concern that pulling the plug on these loan programs will negatively impact the still-fragile economy. Eliminating the programs could hobble the Fed and make it harder to revive similar assistance under a new Congress.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.