Starting in January, President-elect Donald Trump will have a unique opportunity to pack the Federal Reserve with hard money officials.
There are currently two open Board of Governors seats, which will most likely not be filled before the end of President Obama’s tenure. Additionally, both Chair Janet Yellen and Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer’s terms will be up by 2018. Crunch the numbers and you will see that Trump has the opportunity to replace a majority of the Board of Governors and a third of the FOMC with monetary policy hawks during his presidency.
Call me crazy, but assuming that the Republican-controlled House and Senate stands behind him, I believe that Trump just may shock the financial world by shifting this country’s monetary policy in a more hawkish direction.
Yes, this is a guy that cheered on the Fed’s easy-money policies in the years before the Great Recession. And yes, Trump did say in May that he is still a “low interest rate person” who will appoint another dove to head the Federal Reserve. Why in the world, then, am I arguing that the Trump administration might possibly install more hawkish members to the central bank?
Repeated Anti-Fed Campaign Rhetoric
For one, Trump’s occasional dovish comments do not match the passion and enthusiasm of his repeated hawkish campaign trail rhetoric. For the past year, the president-elect has been railing against the “false economy” that the Fed has created, as well as the political influence that runs rampant throughout the central bank.
Perhaps Trump’s most scathing attack on the institution came last October, when he insinuated that Fed actions are crippling the middle class without creating any type of benefit to the economy at large.
“[Chairwoman Yellen] is keeping the economy going, barely,” he said. “You know who gets hurt the most [by her easy money policies]? The people that went through 40 years of their life and saved a hundred dollars every week [in the bank].” He then paused and shook his head for added effect before adding: “They worked all their lives to save and now what happens is they’re being forced into an inflated stock market and at some point they’ll get wiped out.”
These anti-Fed talking points were recycled often on the campaign trail. In September, Trump attacked the Fed for putting us in a “big, fat, ugly bubble” and for keeping rates artificially low for political purposes, points that he again repeated in the first presidential debate. The business mogul has also promised to audit the Fed within the first 100 days of his administration and even included a criticism of the central bank in a recent online video ad.
Sound Money Economic Advisers
Team Trump’s economic advisers paint an even more optimistic picture of his future monetary policy. Some of today’s most reasonable mainstream economic voices are included in his inner circle. These names include David Malpass of Encima Global, who co-signed a letter with Jim Grant opposing the Fed’s “inflationary” and “distortive” quantitative easing program; John Paulson of Paulson & Co., who made billions from shorting the housing market before the Great Recession; Andy Beal, a self-described "libertarian kind of guy" who blames the Fed for the credit crisis; and the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, who told CSIN in 2012 that he is a “very severe critic” of the Fed’s “incredibly easy-money policies policies of the past decade.”
While none of Trump’s economic advisers are by any means Austrians, they are far more hawkish than most of Presidents Bush and Obama’s past economic advisers. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, has even said that these advisers are pushing Trump to nominate two “hard money” candidates to fill the Fed’s current vacancies.
“A core view of many Trump advisors is that the extended period of emergency policy settings has promoted a bubble in the stock market, depressing the incomes of savers, scared the public and encouraged capital misallocation,” Shepherdson told Market Watch. “Right now, these are minority views on the Fed policymaking committee, but Trump appointees are likely to shift the needle.”
The Mike Pence Factor
Trump’s election has given hard money advocates the most hope in over 30 years that our nation’s failed monetary policy will be reformed. Mixed with the current hawkish wave that is already percolating in the veins of some FOMC members, Trump’s future appointments can have a huge impact on the central bank’s immediate decision-making. One can only hope that the president-elect will stick to his guns and do the right thing. Regardless of what he does, however, it will surely be a step ahead of what the Hillary Clinton rubber dove stamp would have brought to the trading desks.