Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has only been on the job for five months, but in that time, he’s twice raised interest rates, and appears likely to raise them again before the end of the year.
Evidently, the president who appointed Powell to the post isn’t altogether pleased with the developments.
President Donald Trump attacked the Federal Reserve on Thursday, saying he disagreed with the course taken by the central bank and its chairman, Jerome Powell, whom Trump nominated to the position last year.
“I don’t necessarily agree with it,” Trump told CNBC about the Fed’s two rate hikes so far this year. “I’m not thrilled, because every time we go up, they want to raise rates again. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.”
The comments caused a stir in financial circles, largely because presidents are supposed to keep their distance from the Federal Reserve’s decisions, respecting the institution’s independence.
Trump, however, doesn’t seem overly concerned with these norms – you’re shocked, I know – and he published some related tweets this morning complaining about rising interest rates.
What I find amazing about this, though, isn’t the president’s indifference toward contemporary American traditions and institutional constraints. Rather, what interests me is the dramatic evolution of Trump’s thinking on the subject.
In November 2015, a few months after Trump launched his candidacy, he complained to reporters that Janet Yellen, the then-chair of the Federal Reserve, “should have raised the rates,” but she’s “not doing it because the Obama administration and the president doesn’t want her to.” He added that Yellen was “obviously not independent” from the Democratic White House.
There was no evidence to support the allegations of corruption, but Trump has never been an evidence kind of guy.
But as Election Day drew closer, Trump changed his mind again. As NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin explained at the time, the then-candidate convinced himself that Yellen was part of some kind of conspiracy to help Democrats by keeping interest rates low and the economy revving. The Republican said in September 2016 that the Fed had created a “false economy” through “artificially low” rates.
“I think she should be ashamed of herself,” Trump said about Yellin.
Nearly two years later, the Republican, now in the White House, has shifted gears on his Fed-related conspiracies and no longer has any use for his “false economy” concerns.