This afternoon President Donald Trump nominated Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell (known as Jay) to replace Janet Yellen as head of the Federal Reserve. Powell, a extremely wealthy Republican, was initially appointed to the central bank’s board of governors by President Barack Obama in 2012. (Powell made his money at the Carlyle Group in the private equity business. His June 2017 financial disclosure form lists his net wealth as between $19.7 million and $55 million. Powell would be the richest Fed chair since banker Marriner Eccles, who headed the Fed from 1934 to 1948.)
Powell is a pick from the pro-business group of Trump’s advisors, which includes Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Ideological conservatives among Trump’s advisors, including Vice President Mike Pence, had advocated a more obviously conservative pick such as Stanford University economist John Taylor, who favors narrowing the Fed’s mandate and limiting the Fed’s flexibility in setting monetary policy.
Powell still has to be confirmed by the Senate and in that vote he is likely to face considerable resistance from conservative Republicans. Twenty-one Republican senators voted against confirming him as a Fed governor in May 2012.
Power is expected to provide continuity with the monetary course pursued by out-going Fed chair Yellen since he has not broken with Yellen on a single vote since he was appointed in 2012.
That doesn’t, however, mean that replacing Yellen with Powell won’t make a difference. Yellen has been extremely successful in building policy consensus among the Fed’s decision makers and Powell doesn’t have the same clout as she did with his colleagues. I think it’s reasonable, then, to expect more disagreements expressed in the Fed’s minutes than under Yellen.
Powell will also have a harder time beating back proposals to loosen bank regulation than Yellen did because 1) he’s the new kid in the chair, 2) he’s not an economist, and 3) he doesn’t have Yellen’s track record during the Financial Crisis to lend his objections to Trump and Mnuchin’s deregulatory goals the same weight as Yellen had.
His appointment certainly won’t rattle domestic or global financial markets in the short run. Let’s see if he comes out as an independent voice to a degree that makes the markets feel he’s a significant counterweight to initiatives from the White House and the Treasury.
The first real test won’t come until the debt-ceiling battles of January and the decisions at the Fed’s Open Market Committee on how many times to raise interest rates in 2018.
If he is confirmed, Powell will begin his four-year term as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 2018.