The Federal Reserve Board, charged with maximizing employment in America, sets interest rates and takes other measures to achieve this goal; because of public records laws, we get to look in on their deliberations five years after the fact. A recently released transcript, dating from the depths of America's unemployment crisis in 2011, reveals that Board members selected by American business (as opposed to those members appointed by the President) mocking unemployed Americans as being uneducated, addicted to drugs, and having a poor "work ethic."
At various points, the transcript notes that the bankers burst into laughter while discussing the "work ethic" issue, for example, after former Citibank exec Dennis Lockhart relates a second-hand anaecdote about applicants for a temp agency failing "to answer ‘0’ to the question of how many days a week it’s acceptable to miss work."
At the time, America's jobless rate was about 9%.
The concept of having private business interests selecting public officials has been criticized by experts. As Wharton professor and author of “The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve” Peter Conti-Brown put it, “It’s not clear at all that the opaque and obscure process by which the private sector selects the Reserve Bank presidents produces superior central bankers than the public process used to select the remaining principal officers of the United States.” This controversial selection process risks having, as he put it, “a system for enhancing the influence of certain slices of society on our central banking policy.
Lacker and Lockhart are retiring this year. Advocates and experts are putting pressure on the Richmond Federal Reserve to replace retiring Reserve Bank Presidents with someone more attuned to the reality of unemployment. Fed Up, a coalition of advocates seeking to shift the Fed from its traditionally pro-bank policies, is seeking to have the regional bank President’s picked with more attention to the needs of workers.
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)