By Mark Glennon of Wirepoints
The United States Senate on Tuesday voted to advance Lisa Cook’s nomination by President Biden to the Federal Reserve Board after a committee deadlocked on her nomination earlier this month. Cook is currently an Executive Committee member of the regional Chicago Federal Reserve Bank Board of Directors. As a member of the national Federal Reserve Board, she would have key influence on the Fed’s monetary policy, which is supposed to be about price stability, i.e., controlling inflation.
In 2020, you may recall that the Chicago Fed bowed to the cancel mob in a particularly egregious manner by cutting ties with a prominent University of Chicago economics professor, Harald Uhlig. We wrote about it here.
What was Uhilg’s sin? He wrote a series of tweets criticizing Black Lives Matters’ call to defund police departments. That’s all.
Cook was one of the leaders in the resulting character assassination that led to firing Uhlig. She said free speech “should have its limits” and accused Uhlig of using it to “spread hatred and violate the dignity of other people.”
Nationally recognized legal scholar Jonathan Turley called the Chicago Fed affair “one of the most notorious cancel campaigns” he has covered in his work defending free speech. Uhlig himself described the matter in the Wall Street Journal, listing it among other reasons why she should not be promoted to the Fed.
Senators opposed to Cook’s nomination are furious about not only the Chicago Fed affair but the rest of Cook’s record on free speech, race and political activism. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, said this about Cook on the Senate Floor:
Professor Cook’s history of extreme left-wing political advocacy and hostility to opposing viewpoints also makes her unfit to serve on the Fed….
Professor Cook’s record indicates that she is likely to inject further political bias into the Fed’s work—at a time when hyper-focus on inflation and adherence to the Fed’s dual mandate is at its most critical.
In over 30,000 public tweets and retweets, Professor Cook has supported race-based reparations, promoted conspiracies about Georgia voter laws, and sought to cancel those who disagree with her views, such as publicly calling for the firing of an economist who dared to tweet that he opposed defunding the Chicago police.
After Banking Committee Republican staff highlighted these tweets for the public’s attention, Professor Cook blocked the Banking Committee Republican Twitter account—one day before her nomination hearing. Apparently Prof. Cook not only realizes how inflammatory her own tweets are, but also has no regard for the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to vet her public statements.
Cook indeed has no background or work history in monetary affairs. That concentration is increasingly displaced by woke politics at the national Fed board and the Chicago Fed. Here’s how the Chicago Fed describes itself in its About web page:
The Bank takes a holistic approach to its varied responsibilities, seeking to connect its internal and external practices with key initiatives that include:
Inflation is now at a 40-year high, thanks in large part to the Fed’s creation, out of thin air, of some $5 trillion dollars just in the last three years. Would it be asking too much for Fed nominees to be expert in monetary policy — or at least have some common sense — instead of a record opposing free speech and promoting racial division? Apparently, it is. The Senate appears likely to approve Cook’s nomination, voting on party lines.
Uhlig recently asked these more specific questions about Cook, the answers to which should be obvious:
Should these activist stances be a cause of concern, before appointing someone to one of the highest offices in the country? I do think so. Might she use her then considerable power to shut down speech and disagreement in the Federal Reserve and elsewhere? Is it reasonable to appoint a person as Fed Governor, who so forcefully spoke up against someone critical of defunding the police, when some police protection might occasionally be welcome to, say, help guard the gold reserves and cash delivery trucks, protect bank employees and assure the safety of buildings?
What, then, will happen, when she is appointed Governor? Will Fed researchers continue to speak freely about their findings concerning racial disparities or the importance of policing, or will speech by sullied, for fear of taking a wrong step and seeing a career come to an end? To the degree that these issues matter for monetary policy at all, will the Board be provided with a balanced and reasoned assessment by its researchers, or will only an activist voice be welcome?
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.