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Images: The Image Bank/Getty Images and John Lamparski/Contributor/Getty; Illustration: Axios Visuals

As the Federal Reserve signals it may cut interest rates again later this month, Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari says the central bank is tuning out calls by President Trump to do more to support the economy — and relying on the strength of the data it collects to justify its moves.

Why it matters: Trump’s attempts to strong-arm the Fed, which has already slashed borrowing costs twice this year, have grown more frequent in recent weeks — and put the central bank on the defensive about its apolitical posture.

"The louder the politics gets turned up, the more we hug data and analysis," Kashkari, whose calls for lower interest started before Trump took office, tells Axios.

Between the lines: The Fed's stance on monetary policy has come full-circle: About 1 year ago, it was raising rates. In July, it announced the 1st rate cut since the financial crisis in an attempt to keep the record economic expansion going as risks — namely, Trump's trade war — threaten economic growth.

  • Businesses have pulled back on spending in the face of the uncertainty, and the pace of hiring has slowed.
  • "People are nervous about where [trade is] going to go, especially obviously for exporters or global companies," says Kashkari, who gets a vote on the rotating monetary policy setting committee next year.
  • "If everyone is spooked, that’s enough to maybe tip the economy over."

On whether or not the Fed's actions to lower rates could give Trump cover to ramp up the trade war — a topic of a highly controversial op-ed by former New York Fed president Bill Dudley — Kashkari says that inflation running below its 2% target is a major factor for the Fed's move, too.

Let's say, if we had inflation well above target, and we were worried that inflation expectations were climbing, I think then we would be much more reluctant to say, 'Well, we're going to try to cut rates because of the trade war.' ... Setting aside what the cause is, just looking at that data — that data would imply you want a more accommodative monetary policy.
— Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari

The big picture: The Fed is hearing from community leaders and activists in a series of unprecedented “listening sessions“ across the country. The events, as chairman Jerome Powell has pointed out many times, have convinced the Fed of the importance of keeping the recovery going for communities that are still convalescing from the financial crisis.

  • “The conventional wisdom was monetary policy does not have a role to play in distributional outcomes ... We’ve now learned that monetary policy has the biggest role to play because we need to create the context for all of these different groups to be able to participate in the economy,” Kashkari tells Axios.

What’s next: Although he won't have a vote at this month's Fed meeting, Kashkari would be voting with what may be the majority.

  • I will likely be in favor of cutting interest rates in October," he tells Axios. "But I don't know how low we have to go — it really is going to depend on how the data comes out."

Go deeper

1 min ago - Health
Axios Investigates

Documents reveal the secrecy of America's drug pricing matrix

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on prescription drugs, and the bills keep getting bigger. But some of the companies promising to help rein in those costs prevent employers from looking under the hood.

Why it matters: Documents provided to Axios reveal a new layer of secrecy within the maze of American drug pricing — one in which firms that manage drug coverage for hundreds of employers, representing millions of workers, obscure the details of their work and make it difficult to figure out whether they're actually providing a good deal.

Right wing builds its own echo chamber

Expand chart
Data: Apptopia; Table: Axios Visuals

Conservatives are aggressively building their own apps, phones, cryptocurrencies and publishing houses in an attempt to circumvent what they see as an increasingly liberal internet and media ecosystem.

Why it matters: Many of these efforts couldn't exist without the backing of major corporate figures and billionaires who are eager to push back against things like "censorship" and "cancel culture."

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.