WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Federal Reserve System is one of the most powerful governmental organizations in the history of the world. America’s central bank has control over the supply of dollars, and currently exerts great influence over interest rates, both for short-term and long-term borrowing. And, though the Fed was partly responsible for the regulatory failures that led to the global economy’s near-meltdown in 2008-2009, post-crisis reform has left it with even greater authority and more responsibility for overseeing the financial system.
That is a worrying outcome, because senior Fed officials seem to have slipped back into their pre-2008 ways, ignoring concerns about dangerous financial-sector behavior – even when those concerns are expressed by members of the US Senate Banking Committee. This is not only unfortunate; it is also dangerous, because the Fed’s political position is much more precarious than its leadership seems to realize.
In many countries, people on the right of the political spectrum provide a bastion of support for the central bank. In northern Europe, for example, the European Central Bank’s independence is seen as essential for price stability – and politicians on the right typically attach a higher priority to this goal.
The situation is quite different in the US. Here, the right, represented by the Republican Party, has long been suspicious of the Fed, reflecting its opposition to a powerful federal government, as well as nostalgia for the days of the gold standard (particularly the version that operated before the Fed was created in 1913). The Fed as it currently operates is being protected by the left (the Democratic Party).