POLITICS
05/12/2016 03:09 pm ET

Hillary Clinton Embraces Progressive Federal Reserve Reforms

“Holy shit -- that’s great news,” was one liberal economist’s reaction.
A Clinton campaign spokesman said on Thursday that "commonsense reforms -- like getting bankers off the boards of r
KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
A Clinton campaign spokesman said on Thursday that "commonsense reforms -- like getting bankers off the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks -- are long overdue.”

Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton came out in favor of changes to the Federal Reserve that would reduce the number of bankers in key central bank positions on Thursday, marking a major coup for national progressive groups championing reform.

"The Federal Reserve is a vital institution for our economy and the wellbeing of our middle class, and the American people should have no doubt that the Fed is serving the public interest,” Jesse Ferguson, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said in a statement. “That's why Secretary Clinton believes that the Fed needs to be more representative of America as a whole as well as that commonsense reforms -- like getting bankers off the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks -- are long overdue.”

The campaign also provided insight into the type of Federal Reserve governors that Clinton would appoint.

“Secretary Clinton will also defend the Fed's so-called dual mandate -- the legal requirement that it focus on full employment as well as inflation -- and will appoint Fed governors who share this commitment and who will carry out unwavering oversight of the financial industry,” Ferguson said.

The announcement brings the Democratic presidential front-runner closer to the position of her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders proposed barring financial executives from sitting on the boards of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks in an op-ed in The New York Times in December.

The Clinton campaign statement came in response to a letter to Fed chair Janet Yellen from 11 Democratic senators and 116 House Democrats. The letter, spearheaded by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), urged the Fed to appoint more women and people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds while expanding the representation of consumer and labor groups on regional Fed bank boards.

Currently, the vast majority of Fed bank board directors are white men. People representing either the financial industry or other major business sectors also occupy most of the seats.

It appears there is now widespread agreement among top Democrats that the Fed has to redouble its commitment to full employment and to be more attentive to how its policies affect African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities. Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

The Fed’s control over monetary policy allows it to raise borrowing costs to head off inflation and reduce them to maximize employment. The members of Congress who wrote to Yellen argue that the disproportionate influence of financial officials and the lack of diversity at the Fed hamper its sensitivity to groups with a more precarious position in the job market.

Clinton had said virtually nothing about her agenda for the powerful central bank until now.

The Fed Up campaign, a coalition of progressive groups headed by the Center for Popular Democracy that has been at the forefront of recent efforts to make Federal Reserve reform a key part of the liberal agenda, confirmed that it has been in talks with the Clinton campaign for months.

“Secretary Clinton did the right thing today by coming out in favor of reforming the Federal Reserve,” said Ady Barkan, director of Fed Up. “We’re very excited that she listened to the voices of community leaders from around the country who have said that we need a Federal Reserve that reflects and represents the American people and that creates a strong economy for all.”  

Some liberal economists previously noted that Clinton’s reticence about the Fed was inconsistent with her stated plans to return the country to the prosperity of the late 1990s, which enabled widespread wage growth. They argue that the era’s well-distributed economic gains were due in no small part to the permissive monetary policies of the Federal Reserve.

Dean Baker, one such economist and a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, was elated to hear about Clinton’s remarks.

“Holy shit -- that’s great news,” Baker said in an email upon receiving the news.

“While Senators Sanders, Warren, and others on the left side of the party took the lead, it appears there is now widespread agreement among top Democrats that the Fed has to redouble its commitment to full employment and to be more attentive to how its policies affect African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities,” Baker continued. “There is also agreement that the Fed's current archaic structure needs to be changed.”

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