“I don’t see any reference to independence in the legislation that has defined the role of the Federal Reserve for the United States," Shelton said, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by The Washington Post. Bloomberg first reported on Shelton’s remarks.
What she said goes against the widely held belief on Wall Street and inside the Fed that the central bank must be independent of politics in order to make the best decisions and maintain the trust of the public and financial market players.
Shelton continued to make her case in the interview for the UBS Knowledge Network conducted by Beat Siegenthaler, a macro strategist at UBS investment bank.
“[The legislation] calls for the Fed to work with Congress and the president to pursue a sound and stable and orderly international monetary system," Shelton said. "It was not considered inappropriate at the time for everyone to be working together to achieve mutually agreed goals that would benefit the American people.”
A White House spokesman and UBS declined to comment.
Shelton said in an email that the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, often referred to as the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, calls for the “improved coordination” among the Fed, Congress and the president to achieve the nation’s economic goals.
On July 2, Trump tweeted his intent to nominate Shelton, a longtime conservative scholar, and economist Christopher Waller for the final two remaining seats on the Fed’s board of governors. Months later, the White House still has not formally sent the nominations to the Senate.
Politicians often want lower interest rates to stimulate the economy and make it easier to campaign for reelection. Trump has repeatedly called for the Fed to slash rates to zero — or take them negative so people would be paid to borrow money.
Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell met with Trump earlier this week and told the president that the central bank makes decisions “based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis,” according to a statement. The current interest rate is just below 1.75 percent, a low level by historical standards.
Powell has reiterated the critical importance of central bank independence in nearly all public remarks he has given in the past year.
But Shelton lamented last month that "now, it’s considered inappropriate somehow for Congress or the president to suggest the Fed should be pursuing one action versus another.”
In countries where the central bank has been taken over or heavily influenced by politicians, the results have often been dire for the economy. Trump’s other intended Fed nominee, Waller, has done extensive research that supports the need for Fed independence to keep the economy and financial markets strong.
Trump has broken with the long-standing tradition for the president not to comment on Fed actions. He has repeatedly bashed the Fed for keeping interest rates too high, even calling Powell a “bonehead” and an “enemy” of the nation. Trump picked Powell for the top Fed job in 2017.
Shelton has defended the president.
“I think it’s in some ways healthier that criticism from the White House is out in the open. At least we know how the president feels," she said.
Shelton has argued in recent months that the Fed should be mindful that the United States has a higher interest rate than Europe or Japan and that is likely keeping the dollar stronger than other currencies, a situation that could put U.S. companies at a disadvantage.
“Humphrey Hawkins explicitly states that ‘achievement of an improved trade balance’ should be a primary objective of coordinated economic policy-making,” Shelton said in an email.