Jerome Powell

Ex-Fed chairs emphasize need for independence in joint WSJ op-ed

Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

All 4 living former Fed chairs co-signed an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Monday, warning of the troubles with a Federal Reserve beholden to short-term politics instead of independently working to meet its mandates of maximum employment and stable prices.

Why it matters: Current Fed chairman Jerome Powell has faced mounting (and unusual) criticism and pressure from President Trump to cut interest rates — something he finally did last week. As Axios's Felix Salmon notes, it'll only make it harder for Powell to maintain an appearance of independence.

Jay Powell's constraints

jay powell cutting a percentage symbol
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Jay Powell did his best impression this week of a Fed chair making his own data-driven decisions about where he should set short-term interest rates. The reality, however, is that the markets and the president are giving him very little choice.

Driving the news: Powell cut interest rates on Wednesday — the first time the Fed has done so in over a decade. In doing so, he effectively fulfilled a prophecy that the fixed-income markets (and even the stock market) had been making for all of 2019. They saw the rate cut coming long before the Fed was willing to admit it, and they were right all along.