Posted Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, at 2:31 PM
Good news for people who like monetary policy, as word comes today that Barack Obama will finally put forward names to fill vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. It's a bipartisan featuring Jerome Stein and Jeremy Powell, both former Treasury subcabinet officials. Unfortunately, it's a bit difficult to figure out what either of these guys think about monetary policy. Stein is a critic of excessive bank leverage, and some of his recent academic work has focused on how central banks can play a role in regulating it (PDF) but I haven't seen him questions about the Fed's possible role in getting us out of the economic doldroms. It'll be interesting to see if Powell ends up getting rebranded as some kind of Communist. He's a Republicans, a former member of the George H.W. Bush administration and a contributor to John McCain's presidential campaign, but he criticized Republican reluctance to raise the debt ceiling and serves on the board of the Nature Conservancy so by the shifting standards of ideological orthodoxy some may see him as one step removed from Joseph Stalin.
I hope for the best here, and certainly Stein will be an important voice in the room on the Fed's important regulatory functions, but I'm old-fashioned enough to wish we were getting nominees with some clear views on monetary policy. A wide-range of well-qualified economists from Christina Romer to Adam Posen and beyond have spoken up about ways the Federal Reserve could be curbing the acute plague of mass unemployment that's currently projected to afflict the country for years to come. Perhaps as with the Supreme Court, we've reached the point where nobody with a track record on the big questions is confirmable.