Must-Read: Mark Thoma: Why It’s Tricky for Fed Officials to Talk Politically

Must-Read: I would beg the highly-esteemed Mark Thoma to draw a distinction here between “inappropriate” and unwise. In my view, it is not at all inappropriate for Fed Chair Janet Yellen to express her concern about excessive inequality. Previous Fed Chairs, after all, have expressed their liking for inequality as an essential engine of economic growth over and over again over the past half century–with exactly zero critical snarking from the American Enterprise Institute for trespassing beyond the boundaries of their role.

But that it is not inappropriate for Janet Yellen to do so does not mean that it is wise. Mark’s argument is, I think, that given the current political situation it is unwise for Janet to further incite the ire of the nutboys in the way that even the mildest expression of concern about rising inequality will do.

That may or may not be true. I think it is not.

But I do not think that bears on my point that Michael R. Strain’s arguments that Janet Yellen’s speech on inequality was inappropriate are void, wrong, erroneous, inattentive to precedent, shoddy, expired, expired, gone to meet their maker, bereft of life, resting in peace, pushing up the daisies, kicked the bucket, shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisible:

Mark Thoma: Why It’s Tricky for Fed Officials to Talk Politically: “I think I disagree with Brad DeLong…

…Should speeches by Federal Reserve officials be limited to topics concerning monetary policy and financial stability, or should they be free to speak on any topic, no matter how politically charged it might be? It’s an important question as the Fed prepares to announce next week what’s looking like a significant change in its eight-year policy of zero-perecent interest rates.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen, for example, was sharply criticized for a speech last year highlighting what economists know about rising inequality and what might be done to overcome it.
This speech, which Yellen gave in October 2014, is still creating controversy. This week, it erupted again when UC Berkeley economist Brad DeLong defended Yellen against the charge that she’s a ‘partisan hack,’ a description in the headline of a Washington Post story by Michael Strain after Yellen’s speech…

December 11, 2015


Brad DeLong
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