Now that President Biden’s long-awaited nominations for vacant seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors have dropped, the big question is how Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook, and Philip Jefferson, if confirmed, might shift policy.
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Why it matters: The Fed’s actions shape the economy in ways that outlast the presidents who appoint them — and the Biden-appointed Fed looks to be a more explicitly pro-worker central bank than we’ve seen in modern times.
The big picture: With inflation running hot, the Fed is in the midst of a pivot to more hawkish monetary policy — possibly including raising interest rates in March.
Raskin, Cook, and Jefferson are unlikely to stand in the way of that pivot, and not just because the slow-moving Senate confirmation process means it will likely be well underway before they are confirmed for their new jobs.
The Fed is a consensus-driven institution, and the consensus has swung decisively in a hawkish direction in the last three months. Even normally-dovish officials like San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly and Chicago Fed president Charles Evans on board with the policy shift.
But over time, the new additions to the Board of Governors — who have a permanent vote on monetary policy, unlike regional Fed presidents who rotate — have emphasized the importance of running a hot labor market in order to achieve gains for workers and greater racial equality.
What they’re saying: “Inflation is so high and political pressures on the Fed are so strong (including from Democrats), that we doubt they will push hard against the will of the committee,” wrote Roberto Perli and Benson Durham of Cornerstone Macro, in a client note.
But, they add, “Because all of them have expressed views in favor of broader expansion of the labor market, … we can expect them to resist substantial tightening in the future.”
Regulatory policy is a different matter. If confirmed as vice chair for supervision — and Republican Senators will try to stop that from happening — Raskin would have more explicit power over a wide range of regulatory policy, and look to rein in the deregulatory impulses of her predecessor, Trump appointee Randal Quarles.
The bottom line: As the Biden Fed takes shape, it will include more voices focused on workers than in modern memory. But the course of policy depends on whether inflation trends allow them to act on those instincts.
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