While speculation swirls over Trump's pick for the next Treasury Secretary, with eyebrows raised after the President-elect unexpectedly met with Goldman COO Gary Cohn earlier in the day, one of the more interesting names to have emerged in the running for the top economic post is that of John Allison, former CEO of the bank BB&T and of the libertarian non-profit think tank the Cato Institute.
What makes Allison's candidacy especially notable is that he happens to be a prominent critic of the Federal Reserve, as well as an advocate of the gold standard. Allison has said his “long-term ambition” for monetary policy “would be to get rid of the Federal Reserve and get back to a private banking system.” He also accurately portrayed the Fed by saying that it is “a scary organization because there’s no control."
In a 2014 paper authored by Allison for the Cato Journal, he said he "would get rid of the Federal Reserve because the volatility in the economy is primarily caused by the Fed." Allison said that simply allowing the market to regulate itself would be preferable to the Fed harming the stability of the financial system.
"When the Fed is radically changing the money supply, distorting interest rates, and over-regulating the financial sector, it makes rational economic calculation difficult," Allison wrote. "Markets do form bubbles, but the Fed makes them worse."
Allison said he would want to see rules that would constrain or define the Fed’s ability to change interest rates in response to economic conditions because of what he called “a very difficult mess.” Both Allison and Trump have said low interest rates create or exacerbate asset bubbles.
Allison also suggested that the government's practice of insuring bank deposits up to $250,000 should be abolished and the US should go back to a banking system backed by "a market standard such as gold."
Additionally, the libertarian ex-CEO also argued for higher capital reserves of up to 20% of assets at banks and has also argued that the government should repeal three of the broadest banking regulations.
"We should raise capital standards, but it is even more important to eliminate burdensome regulations — including Dodd-Frank, the Community Reinvestment Act, and Truth in Lending," Allison wrote. "About 25 percent of a bank's personnel cost relates to regulations. Banks cannot pay the regulatory costs and have high capital standards." This is similar to Trump's desire to roll back regulation — including Dodd-Frank — on financial institutions, though he has since backtracked somewhat.
Speaking after his meeting with Trump, Allison said it “looked like a job interview and also I think a sincere effort to get a little advice” according to Bloomberg. He told Fox News that his meeting also included Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Trump strategist Steve Bannon, and talked about how to accelerate economic growth.
“It was a very interesting conversation: Two old business guys talking about business, in a certain sense”
In an interview with CNBC, Allison said “I would certainly consider it, but I would have to reflect on it,” when asked whether he wants to be Treasury secretary. He hedged further by saying "It’s a very exciting job, but I’m in a very nice place in my career."
Sadly, despite his libertarian leanings, Allison told CNBC that eliminating the Fed and returning to a gold standard "probably aren’t realistic in practice" adding that “how we get back to an international commodity-based standard, I’m not sure. I think it would be desirable in some ways, because it would impose some discipline on government”
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In any case, the wait for Trump's Treasury pick may be almost over. As reported late on Monday, VP-elect Pence told reporters “there will be a number of very important announcements” on Tuesday. Another Cabinet announcement will be made Tuesday afternoon, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said on CNN.